New device shines light into your ears to treat the winter blues

A company in Finland has come up with a device it says can prevent and cure symptoms of seasonal depression through what sounds like mad science: shining light into users' brains through their ears. The Valkee light emitter, named after the company, is an iPod-sized gizmo with earbuds containing fiber optic light channels instead of speakers. The idea behind this technology is that our eyes and skin aren't the only areas on our bodies that react to light; in fact, Valkee claims that 18 areas in the brain are actually photo-sensitive.

Valkee has presented research, in conjunction with the University of Oulu, that claims a 92 percent success rate of improving mood and energy in test participants who used the device 8 to 12 minutes a day. A total of 89 people with symptoms of severe seasonal affective disorder participated in two studies at the university over a four week period.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a very real medical condition affecting an estimated 6.1 percent of Americans. Most common in the winter months when sunlight is limited due to shorter days, SAD manifests in sufferers through symptoms including decreased energy, oversleeping, and depression. In Finland, where Valkee is based, the occurrence of SAD is as high as 9.5 percent.

SAD is traditionally treated with exposure to bright artificial light, typically using specialized light therapy boxes, or even just extra lamps. The Valkee device is available now in Europe for £185.00 ($295), with its creators saying they plan to offer it for sale in the U.S. soon.


This article was written by Randy Nelson and originally appeared on Tecca

More from Tecca: