Exposing yourself to this may boost brain function

Young man relieving stress and restoring energy levels.

This answers the question: is dim light or bright light better for the brain?

Story-At-a-Glance

A new study found that light deficiency slows brain function down, by as much as 30%.

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Exposing yourself to this may boost brain function

Light energises every cell in the body. 

Light therapies have been shown to improve many health conditions because light’s action is so fundamental.

A new study shows that a light deficiency not only slows brain function but leads to a 30% decrease in brain connectivity.

These changes were observed in critical regions of the brain related to learning and memory.

Bright light exposure reverses the decline in performance and structure.

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The rodent study by Michigan State University neuroscientists was funded by The National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Hippocampus.

The study used rats exposed to different environmental lighting.

Two sets of rats were exposed to 12 hour bright and 12 hour dark cycles — normal for lab rats. 

For one group the light cycle was very bright — the other had dim light during the light cycle.

Light can be measured in lux. Higher lux is brighter.

“Grass rats were housed in either a 12:12 hour bright light-dark (1,000 lux) or dim light-dark (50 lux) cycle.”

After 4 weeks, the rats were put through a battery of tests to look at their mental performance.

The animals who were subjected to only dim light performed much worse in the maze test, a test of spatial memory. 

Rats need to be very good with spatial memory as they often move around the same spaces in the dark — looking for food.

“After 4 weeks, the dim light group showed impaired spatial memory in the Morris Water Maze task.”

The team then took the rats from the dim light group and switched them so they got the bright (1,000 lux) light exposure during their light phase.

When the same rats were retested after 4 weeks of bright light exposure, the brain deficits were reduced.

“The impairments in their maze task performance were reversed when the dim light group was transferred to the bright light condition for 4 weeks.”

This study backs previous evidence showing that mammalian brain function is powerfully influenced by light. 

It also shows that dim-light-induced mental deficits can be reversed with proper lighting.

“The results suggest that lighting conditions influence cognitive function of grass rats in a way similar to that observed in humans, such that bright light is beneficial over dim light for cognitive performance.”

The scientists found changes in the brains of the animals exposed to dim light too.

 They looked at a critical brain protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

BDNF is important for the renewal of the brain — it supports growth of new brain neurons and synapses. 

BDNF is particularly high in regions of the brain associated with “higher functions” such as thinking and memory.

The lab rats exposed to dim light had much less brain-derived neurotrophic factor, particularly in memory related brain regions.

“Rats in the dim light condition exhibited reduced expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor in the hippocampus region of the brain.”

Brain renewal is curtailed by light deficiency.

Dendrites are another important part of brain function — they reach out and pass on electrical messages between brain cells.

Dim light trimmed the amount of dendrites in the rat brain, limiting the amount of connections that can send messages between brain cells.

“There was also a reduction in dendritic spine density in the dim light group as compared to the bright light group.”

Amazingly, when the dim light treated animals were exposed to bright light their brain connections quickly grew again!

“When dim light exposed animals were transferred to the bright light condition for 4 weeks, the hippocampal BDNF and dendritic spine density significantly increased.”

Dim light affects mental capacity and it changes the structure of the brain in fundamental ways — and this can be reversed with enough light.

“The results illustrate that not only does light intensity affect cognitive performance, but that it also impacts hippocampal structural plasticity.”

Don’t overlook the healing benefits of proper light exposure.

—-Important Message From Matt—-

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Matt Cook is editor-in-chief of Daily Medical Discoveries. Matt has been a full time health researcher for 26 years. ABC News interviewed Matt on sexual health issues not long ago. Matt is widely quoted on over 1,000,000 websites. He has over 300,000 daily newsletter readers. Daily Medical Discoveries finds hidden, buried or ignored medical studies through the lens of 100 years of proven science. Matt heads up the editorial team of scientists and health researchers. Each discovery is based upon primary studies from peer reviewed science sources following the sildenafil for pulmonary hypertension to ensure accuracy.

 

Light modulates hippocampal function and spatial learning in a diurnal rodent species: A study using male nile grass rat (Arvicanthis niloticus)

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hipo.22822/abstract