ipRGC

Our eyes are amazing and we now realize that they are for so much more than just vision.  In 2001 Intrinsic Photo Receptive Ganglion Cells were discovered.  In addition to the rods and cones which enable us to see colors and focus, as well as to make out shapes and contrast in dim lighting, these ipRGC’s have nothing to do with our vision. 

87% of our sensory information received is by sight, 50% of our brain is used for vision and yet within our eyes are also these ganglion cells, many of which we still don’t know what functions they perform.  We now do know that the ipRGC’s send information to the part of our brain associated with short term memory as well as our circadian rhythm.  These ganglion cells absorb light, especially blue light which is essential for the entrainment of our circadian rhythm (see blog on Circadian Rhythm). 

There is so much more to learn about our eyes and how they influence our health, with the discovery of these ipRGC’s we have gained the understanding that our eyes are essential for many of our biological functions. 

Circadian Rhythm

Diagram By NoNameGYassineMrabetTalk  ✉   fixed by Addicted04 - Wikipedia

Diagram By NoNameGYassineMrabetTalk fixed by Addicted04 - Wikipedia

Circa-about   dia- day

These are our natural rhythms that repeat in about a 24 hour day.  These are vital for our health and are able to get out of sync – just think of jet lag.  Our circadian rhythm is reset every day – this is called entrainment.  To reset we need bright light in the morning to signal the production of serotonin, and we need dimming light and darkness at night for the production of melatonin.  Both light and darkness are essential for a healthy circadian rhythm.

So many aspect of our lives are regulated by our circadian rhythm, our sleep, mental functioning, emotions, state of mind and many aspects of our immune system and health. 

How can we adjust and improve this essential part of our biology?  Bright light in the morning upon waking, being outside in daylight for at least 20 minutes a day preferably around noon time when the sun is the brightest, exercise, a shift in indoor lighting in the evening to a softer yellower light and avoiding the blue light from electronics for at least 1 hour before bedtime.  Sleeping in total darkness is also important and getting 8 hours of sleep a night, our ancestors before electricity got 10 hours. 

Some current research is suggesting that healthy sleep and a healthy circadian rhythm is an important factor in preventing many of the disease that plague us, heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. 

What If?

Just over a year ago this was the question that was the foundation for what would become Lumen Element.  What if light could enhance the lives of those living with Alzheimer's and dementia diseases?  What if light could give them and their families a little more time together?  What if light could decrease some of what are seen as difficult behaviors associate with those diseases?  What if light is an unmet need for these individuals?

These are also questions I began a presentation at the local Community College with last week.  What I have discovered in the past year is that light does have the ability to impact the lives of those living with Alzheimer's and dementia disease.  The research is being done and the results are amazing.  The right light at the right time of day has a positive impact on sleep, sundowners, agitation, caloric intake and more.  To see some of what I have researched check out the articles on my website:   Lumen Element  , I am adding more as they become available.

Another thing I have found is that light is important for me and for you for our health, productivity, sleep, learning and so much more. As with so many things the answering of one "What if?" leads to many more.

 

Economic Impact of Longevity

I recently attended a Gerontology Conference where a keynote speaker from AARP spoke about changing the way we thinking of the our aging population.  He showed the positive economic impact that Seniors have on the economy as a whole and specifically on Oregon's.  It was a new way of considering the impact of our aging society.  The longevity economy considered the impact of households headed by someone 50 and above.  Consumer spending for this group was close to $60 Billion compared to households headed by someone under 50 at less than $40 Billion.  People over 50 in 2013 were 36% of Oregon'spopulation.  This economy supported jobs in health care, retail trade, accommodation and food services.  People within this age group also contribute significantly to Oregon's workforce.  33% of Oregon's workforce is over 50, 17% of which are self employed entrepreneurs, and 40% work in professional occupations.  This population is growing and will continue to have a major impact on our economy, in light of this study in a very positive way.  To see more visit: AARP States Longevity Economy

Light and the Saber Tooth Tiger

Lately, I have spent time considering how light impacts our circadian rhythm and the production of melatonin.  Melatonin is produced by various tissues in the body, although the major source is the pineal gland in the brain activated by darkness.  Why is this so sensitive to light?  How is it that even a small amount of blue light can disrupt this?

 I am brought to the awareness that each of us on this planet had ancestors who were able to survive famines, disease and predators, if they had not we would not be here.  In order to survive our ancestors had amazing genetic qualities to survive all that they faced and these they passed down to us in our genetic code.  

So, what does this have to do with light and the saber tooth?  When our ancestors experienced light it meant that the saber tooth or other predators also had light and for survival they had to be alert and awake.  The production of melatonin and the drowsiness it brings could have meant their doom.  Today, our pineal gland is not able to differentiate between the electric 24 hours a day of light we are able to surround ourselves with and the light that meant it is time to be awake and alert.  

We need to figure out how to work with our light sources to support our biological needs and responses to light, as they won't be changing any time soon, so for our health and survival we must understand this and work to support our natural systems.

When Do You Think of Light

It is spring time in the Pacific Northwest, which means along with gray days filled with rain showers we have a few days thrown in with beautiful sunshine.  The kind of day that fills me with energy and optimism that Spring will be here.  I am surprised by the response that I sometimes receive when I mention I am a light researcher, some people think that this is a topic that is of interest in the winter.  That light is only of concern when we think of illumination or the the lack of it.  We are surrounded everyday by a wonderful sea of light, this light impacts our productivity, our wellness, our emotional outlook, our sleep, our appetite, how we learn and so much more.  I hope you don't wait until the dark days to consider the light that you are living in everyday.

Bright Light To Begin The Day

I have been reading several articles about the importance of bright light (especially natural light or light with clear blue tones) in the morning to begin our day and aid in serotonin production.  Serotonin is our feel good hormone that helps us to feel energized.  The importance of this light in the morning is that it can help to reset our internal time clock as well as be a great natural boost of energy.  This morning I was reading a blog that I follow, Alzheimer's Reading Room, the author found that when caring for his mother the day went better with several morning rituals.  One of those being:  "I led her to the kitchen and sat her at the table where she could get some bright light".  Doing this he found her day went better and she seemed more content and happier.   I love it when experience supports science and science supports experience!

Feel the Light

Lighting And Human Health

Published: December 2015

By Craig DiLouie

Light doesn’t only serve as the basis of vision. It can influence behavior and how people feel. Further, light plays an important role in human health. As researchers gain insight into the relationship between light and health, the lighting industry is beginning to consider health effects in product and lighting design best practices.

Heart of the issue


At the core of one of light’s biggest effects on human health is its nonvisual effect on the body’s circadian system. The circadian system produces and regulates bodily functions based on 24-hour cycles, called circadian rhythms. Examples of circadian rhythms include sleep-wake cycles, core body temperature changes, and the release timing of hormones, such as melatonin. Disruption to circadian rhythms can lead to poor nighttime sleep and increased daytime napping as well as a greater risk of depression, obesity, diabetes and seasonal affective disorder.
  To read the full article: