Brief history of light therapy
For centuries, light has been used for its healing powers, for treating tuberculosis, jaundice, wounds and skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. In 1984, the National Institutes of Health discovered that light also affects the brain. Later, researchers and clinicians applied light to certain mood and sleep disorders. Within 20 years, light therapy was accepted as a first-line treatment by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
Action spectrum discovery
In 2001, a major discovery showed that not all light has the same effect on the brain. Researchers found that an “action spectrum” or a specific narrow bandwidth of light was more efficient than the standard 10,000 lux bright light therapy, even at 1/100th the intensity of conventional light therapy. This discovery created a new type of specialized, low-intensity phototherapy and promised to make light therapy easier to tolerate. Several studies using this specialized light showed improvement similar to bright light therapy.
Light in Parkinson’s disease
During this time, researchers were also investigating light therapy for Parkinson’s disease. However, Parkinson’s patients are photosensitive, and it made sense to experiment with low-intensity phototherapy for Parkinson’s. This was also motivated by the fact that different light boxes produced different spectral compositions, and some light boxes worked better than others for Parkinson’s disease.
Development of Spectramax phototherapy
A number of unpublished small trials investigated the effect of different, narrow bandwidth light on Parkinson’s. These studies showed improvement with certian wavelengths but worsening with long wavelength light. As a result, a specialized low-intensity phototherapy device (Spectramax) was developed for Parkinson’s. Spectromax is currently being validated in PhotoPharmics' pivotal, double-blind investigation.