One of the most common and persistent symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is fatigue. While the debilitating nature of the fatigue may lessen over time, some fatigue can be expected for years…if not a lifetime. Now, Australian researchers report that sitting in front of a light box for 45 minutes a day may help to reduce fatigue in patients with TBI.
According to the Traumatic Brain Injury Survival Guide, by Dr. Glen Johnson, the fatigue after TBI can affect both mental and physical performance. Physical fatigue is most pronounced immediately after the brain injury—it takes effort to relearn how to coordinate muscles and build up strength after such a devastating injury. Worse is the mental fatigue, the type that can wipe you out after an hour of balancing the checkbook. It tends to go on for long periods of time.
Think of owning a car that you can only fill with half a tank of gas. You can now only go half as far as you used to. When you run out of gas, the engine stops. With mental fatigue, it’s as if the brain runs out of chemicals and just shuts down.
That’s why this preliminary study is so exciting.
Light therapy has been used for decades to treat depression caused by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). When sitting in front of a light box (using special light bulbs, not the usual lamp bulbs), the light can stimulate changes to hormones in the brain, resetting the body’s circadian rhythms.
According to an article in the Brisbane Times, people with fatigue from head injuries felt more alert and performed daily tasks more easily after using short-wavelength light therapy. In addition, tests showed that patients had better sleep patterns, shorter reaction times, and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The treatment consisted of sitting in front of a light box for 45 minutes, within 90 minutes of waking up.
Professor Jennie Ponsford [professor of neuropsychology at Monash University] said one participant, an academic with a mild head injury who had been struggling to function in a high-powered job, found the treatment had transformed his ability to work.
”People getting the [short wavelength light] therapy are coming back and saying, ‘I want one of these boxes’. I must say I was very sceptical about the whole thing, it sounds a bit out there, but I really think it works,” she said.
The full results of the study are not in—in fact, only 30 of a total of 90 patients have been tested—but the initial results are exciting, indeed. It is a simple treatment that anyone could have, without a prescription and without great expense.
We will keep you informed of all developments, including the full report once the study has been completed.
To read the full article in the Brisbane Times, click here: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/science/light-box-could-be-breakthrough-in-treatment-of-brain-injury-fatigue-20110807-1ihj8.html#ixzz1VVbDK7NV