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Medicine

Human Brain Is Sensitive To Light In Ears 130

Posted by timothy
from the also-to-the-name-of-the-devil dept.
vuo writes "Finnish researchers have shown that the human brain contains photoreceptors that react to intracranial illumination. Light is provided through the ear canal with bright-light headsets by Valkee. These devices, much like earphones or should we say 'earlumes,' are registered medical devices. Retinal illumination or bright-light therapy has been previously assumed to be the only way light indirectly affects brains. Light therapy helps with mood swings, seasonal affective disorder, jetlag and other circadian rhythm disruptions."
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Human Brain Is Sensitive To Light In Ears

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  • by CO_gun_toter (675593) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:21PM (#37062432)
    When they shined a light in my ear :-)
  • by kamelkev (114875) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:25PM (#37062476)

    The source article is posted on "PR Newswire".

    This is a self published document by the company that creates and promotes the Valkee product.

    I am in no position to comment on the legitimacy of the product or the efficacy of it's claims, and neither is anyone else here given the complete uselessness of the article presented.

    At least link to the "scientific" article that they have on their website, which is more appropriate for this audience:
    http://www.valkee.com/uk/Valkee_Poster_Presentation-Human_Brain_Photosensitiveness_May2011.pdf

    I cannot tell if the above whitepaper is peer reviewed or what.

    • by Nick Ives (317) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:38PM (#37062650)

      Of course it's not peer reviewed: it's not being published in a reputable journal.

      This is pure snake oil. We don't have photoreceptors in our ears.

      • by Nick Ives (317) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:42PM (#37062700)

        Oh god, reading that press release it just gets better.

        They reckon that because a photosensitive protein is found in the human brain, shining light in through the ears must help in seasonal affective disorder. To demonstrate this they cut up some cadavers and showed that this protein was found in their brain.

        I'm quite certain you can't see the brain by looking in through the ear canal.

        • by F69631 (2421974) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:51PM (#37062796)

          I'm quite certain you can't see the brain by looking in through the ear canal.

          Are you? If you press your palm against a strong flashlight, I bet you can see some illumination on the skin in the back of your hand as human tissue isn't that effective in blocking the light... If shining light to your brain really has some positive effect, it seems really plausible that powerful light deep in your ear might work!

          That said, I've seen these products before (I live in Finland) and remember thinking "Yeah. Right. Seems as scientific as ab tronic".

          • by Nick Ives (317) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:59PM (#37062892)

            Well, in between the ear canal and the brain there's the inner ear which is full of bones and fluid.

            Of course, that's leaving aside what those photosensitive proteins do in the brain. Maybe they're some leftover defence mechanism in case the brain gets exposed to light?

            Even assuming that this device does have an effect on the brain, photosensitive proteins in the brain are clearly a surrogate endpoint with respect to seasonal affective disorder.

            • by rubycodez (864176) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:45PM (#37063310)
              The brain is above, I'd suggest looking at some good 3D MRI imaging. what a load of BS this is.
            • by Rei (128717) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @09:32PM (#37064552) Homepage

              Yes, this article is clearly bunk. But still, it's quite possible that light has more of an impact on the human body than has been traditionally accepted. Human skin might even be mildly photosynthetic -- not kidding. Fungi have been found at Chernobyl using ionizing radiation as an energy source -- and it appears that it's melanin that they've been using to capture the energy. Ionization of melanin can enhance NADH/NAD+ [plosone.org] conversion, which is the last step before ATP production. UV was shown to be effective in causing this effect.

              • by repapetilto (1219852) on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:13PM (#37076524)

                This is a little delayed, but I just looked at that paper and don't think their conclusion is very strong. First of all, your extrapolation that enhancing NADH/NAD+ conversion (they measured this in vitro, without cells involved, by the way) means more usable energy for a cell doesn't really make sense. The only way it would is if this was somehow happening only in the Intermembrane space of the mitochondria. The whole point of that step is to put alot of H+ in the intermembrane space so the concentration gradient can be used to power ATP synthase. If it occurred anywhere else in the cell it would be effectively wasting NADH. The authors themselves say that the melanin is localized to the cell membrane and that the reducing (anti-oxidant) activity of melanin is occurring outside the cell.

                The purpose of melanin is twofold.
                1) It is an anti-oxidant, when UV light, or anything else (e.g. superoxide leaking from the electron transport chain) oxidizes something the melanin reacts with it rather than something critical to cell function (e.g. the cell membrane).
                2) It can absorb UV light directly and convert it to heat.

                When I see those results I think two things.
                1) The radiation is killing off bacterial contamination in the culture dishes. I saw no mention of antibiotics. This leaves more food for the fungus... as long as it can deal with the radiation. Fungus that makes melanin is more resistant to the oxidative stress caused by radiation exposure.
                2) The melanin is converting UV radiation into heat locally, thus increasing reaction rates, leading to increased growth.

                They also use words like "significant" without backing it with stats. So i think that was a pretty crappy paper. That said, utilizing the heat formed via the melanin-radiation reaction would still be a clever biological trick. This is not my area of expertise though, so if I am wrong please correct me.

          • by mikael (484) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @08:00PM (#37063980)

            Used to do that as a kid - had one of those large square batteries and a spare light-bulb from a lego set (one of those for 4x2 bricks. Could see the outline of my bones in my hand). Freaky.

            Just about every cell is sensitive to infra-red heat - helps them to align properly during the healing process. Also indirectly sensitive to ultra-violet light due to the damage caused.

          • by sjames (1099) on Friday August 12, 2011 @01:55AM (#37065610) Homepage

            Light can penetrate surprisingly far into our soft tissue, but bone is opaque. There is no straight path through soft tissue from the ear canal to the brain, not even in politicians.

        • No, bu your cheeks glow when you shine a flashlight in your mouth... Not saying this at all credible, and if it were why the ear would be better than the nostrils.
    • by godrik (1287354) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:41PM (#37062692)

      It is actually not an article but a poster presentation that occured in this conference: http://www.ismrm.org/11/ [ismrm.org]

      I am not sure about that particular conference but poster presentation are usually not peer reviewed. In general poster presentation are given as a teaser for a futur conference article (which are usually peer reviewed).

      Disclaimer: I am a computer scientist so it might be different in the medical field

    • by tloh (451585) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:43PM (#37062714)

      Maybe you're being a bit unfair. The messanger maybe unsavory but at least part of the source does appear to be reputable.

      ......scientists from the University of Oulu will present new findings on human brain's photosensitivity at the Scandinavian Physiology Society Annual Meeting 2011, August 12-14.

      I think it would be prudent to hold off on judgment until the paper is actually presented. In any case, photo sensitivity of brain tissue is not unheard of. [wikipedia.org]

      On a less serious note, Star Trek did it first [photobucket.com].

    • by Kelbear (870538) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:54PM (#37063408)

      Oh goddammit, I just know that we're going to see a break out of alternative medicine quacks who will start treating people by pushing fancy flashlights into their ears.

    • by vuo (156163) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @07:36PM (#37063756) Homepage
      Just to clarify as the original poster, my only connection to Valkee is living in the same country. The idea is just so Frankenstein I had to post it. Also, it was mentioned in a nationally circulated tabloid. Their poster [valkee.com] did show by fMRI that something is happening. The bone in the ear canal is very thin, and easily lets light through. The clinical trials are not yet ready, but that hasn't stopped them selling the device. That's good, I would say - the perennial complaint about Finnish research is that it's commercialized late and seldom.
    • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @07:46PM (#37063844)

      I am in no position to comment on the legitimacy of the product or the efficacy of it's claims, and neither is anyone else here given the complete uselessness of the article presented.

      Ill take a shot at it, having used sun-lamps before. Lets take a look at Valkee's FAQ [valkee.com]:

      Portable and always with you
      You can use Valkee wherever works best for you. Due to its small size, you can use it in the morning, during your commute or at work. It travels with you like a cell phone and mp3-player.

      BS alarm is going crazy, because if you were to start using a sunlamp at 7pm every night you could throw your sleep patterns into disarray. Light therapy usually happens in the morning, because it affects circadian rhythm and part of the point is to make your brain think the sun is rising even in dark winter months (if youre deaing with SAD). Additionally, all the sources ive seen (wikipedia, sun lamp vendors) caution that you should not overuse them because they are mood-altering and can have negative side effects.

      Saying that you can use the devices whenever you want for however long you want is a pretty clear indicator that they do nothing whatsoever (protip-- most devices that perform a medical function, other than Vitamin C, do not have a "when you want however much you want" dosing policy).

      What time of the day is it best to use Valkee?
      70% of users have stated that positive effects are best realized during the morning and 30% have stated that they achieve the best results in the evening. Start using Valkee in the morning preferably 30-60 minutes after waking up. If you do not realize positive results after 3-5 days, use Valkee 1-2 hours prior to going to bed in the evening.

      Same issue as above. Also, not having a clear stance on that (and relying on "users" rather than "clinical data") indicates that they really have no clue what this does or why it should work or anything else, other than that you should give them money for a gadget.

      • by epine (68316) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @08:33PM (#37064222)

        ... indicates that they really have no clue what this does or why it should work or anything else, other than that you should give them money for a gadget.

        No, it indicates that they aren't doing a good job of making substantive arguments to an audience with no clue.

        The circadian phase response curve [wikipedia.org] is increasingly well understood. I personally have a circadian rhythm disorder. I'm intimately familiar with my own PRC.

        Research I don't have at hand shows that among the elderly, treatment with blue light in the evening helps them make it through the night with more sheep and less roosters.

        Younger people and misfits such as myself often prefer to advance their circadian phase: for this you want intense blue light in the early morning (best in the hour before you feel like waking) or melatonin in the middle of your waking day.

        I'm more suspicious about this ear thing because of reduce, recycle, and reuse: mother nature just can't help herself from raiding the molecular junk drawer. She's already got the recipe. Why not?

        It's a long chain from the light bulb to the eardrum to molecules of the brain to the suprachiasmatic nucleus.

        I'd be very happy if a pair of Lite-Brite laser disco earmuffs could sort my circadian phase out while I slumber happily through my pre-waking dreams. Melatonin controls my problem, but it impacts my performance at about the intensity of two pints of beer consumed just as I'm entering the most productive part of my day. Unfortunately, I can't just grow a liver the size of a sofa cushion and have the impairment fade away.

        • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @11:17PM (#37064962)

          Nowhere does their marketing material or FAQ talk about circadian rhythm. They are marketing this is a set-it-and-forget-it happy-mood-maker. Thats not how sunlamps work at all, to achieve a specific result you need to use it at a specific time, and it doesnt just "work" with no side effects. When they market it like that, it tells me that it doesnt do a darn thing.

          Google a sunlamp vendor, and see what they say about side effects and exercising caution. Youll note that they do NOT advise you to "just pick whenever is most convenient for you"; that can result in screwing up your sleep schedule, as the wikipedia articles you link demonstrate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:26PM (#37062480)

    Antidepressant sales in the pacific northwest are going to go down!

  • by FrankSchwab (675585) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:26PM (#37062482) Journal

    Oh glorious, glorious slashvertisements.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:26PM (#37062492)

    Great way to grab some bucks. Right, Tim?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:27PM (#37062500)

    OK, someone please tell me why I would need to spend nearly $300 USD to shine 2 white LEDs in my ear? Awaiting a schematic and a parts list of what is needed to build this. Oh 3 AA's wired to pair of in-ear headphones with the coil and diaphragm replaced by an LED on each side.

    Now someone tell me that this really works, that shining light i my ear is going to change my mood and outlook on life. Why on earth would the inside of our ears ever develop light sensitivity? I am smelling snake oil burning on the wick while the guy in the dirty traveling salesman suit stands on a crate in front of his horse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:29PM (#37062532)

    I'm really stupid and have nothing to say so I posted a comment here too

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:29PM (#37062536)
    An 1998 article in Science claimed there were photoreceptors there and helped alleviate jet lag. I dont know if scientists have followed this up. But its become urban legend now.
  • by Vegan Cyclist (1650427) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:33PM (#37062588) Homepage

    Curious what this means for people who can't see...?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:36PM (#37062616)

    is it sensitive to a reverse cranial insertion therapy?

  • by unclepedro (312196) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:36PM (#37062620) Homepage

    ... then headphones are making us all crazy! Hmm, actually...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:07PM (#37062982)

      That could very well be true, actually.

      The human brain is hardwired in many ways to react to sunlight.
      Long periods of none-exposure can really mess you up.
      Whether depression can be caused directly by it is still up for debate.
      But headaches, nausea and sleeplessness can be caused by it. (those can lead TO depression over a while, but not directly)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:44PM (#37062728)
    I guess I can sit down again.
  • by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:46PM (#37062750)
    So a bright light is expected to travel down the ear canal - cross the several membranes between the ear and the brain and have a measurable effect on your brain (even assuming that the photoreceptors ARE there). I'm buying it just as much as the Browser IQ article from earlier.
    I want to see some peer review first
    • by codeAlDente (1643257) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:03PM (#37062942)
      They claim success in 9 of 10 clinical trials. I also would like to see those trials, but that's what conferences and papers are for. Why not a simpler experiment first - shine some light in some ears and see if it gets perceived. Also - photosensitive proteins, not photoreceptors - I see no claims that OPN3 gets assembled into anything resembling a functional photoreceptor, even if their "therapy" assumes it. A good analogy might be green fluorescent protein (GFP). Upon expression in the CNS, it reacts with light, it can stain particular types of neurons for identification or recording purposes, but it typically has no demonstrable physiological effect. Thus, the presence of a photosensitive protein does not necessarily mean that light has any physiological effect.
    • by rubycodez (864176) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:46PM (#37063324)
      Not just membrane, bone. have a look at some good 3D imaging. this is utter bullshit
  • by twocentplain (2169370) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:51PM (#37062784)
    Think of the awkward clinical trials...
  • by CCarrot (1562079) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:57PM (#37062872)

    FTS:

    These devices, much like earphones or should we say 'earlumes,' are registered medical devices.

    WTF? Where, in Singapore?

    Oh, I see, it has CE certification as a 'medical device' for sale in Europe. Well, nice to see the US isn't the only country lowering the bar [magna-health.com] for snake oil salesmen everywhere...(yes, those magnetic bracelet-thingies are registered under MHRA as 'medical devices')

    frig.

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday August 11, 2011 @07:05PM (#37063486) Homepage Journal

      For the record, that's a rating of medical safety. So having something that does nothing is medically safe. IN the US, probably in the EU as well.

      • by CCarrot (1562079) on Friday August 12, 2011 @11:04AM (#37068446)

        For the record, that's a rating of medical safety. So having something that does nothing is medically safe. IN the US, probably in the EU as well.

        Great! So I can get my silverware certified and brag that I'm using 'certified medical devices' to eat my dinner? Maybe they'll make me healthier...or maybe I can convince others that they are, generating a market for my new medi-ware. Cool!

        If the minimum bar for rating is that the device doesn't actually harm the person using it, then that's what the rating should be called, i.e., 'certified as medically safe', not 'certified as a medical device'. The latter implies that the device actually does something medical, and strikes me as intentionally misleading. But whatever, anything to keep the certification fees flowing in, I guess...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @05:58PM (#37062882)

    "You Light Up My Ears"

    • by flaming error (1041742) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @07:33PM (#37063736) Journal

      My childhood radio experience was with crystal radios in the AM band, and I was a little slow in discovering that store-bought radios also had an FM band, where you could actually hear music fairly clearly, even passing under a bridge. Shortly thereafter, I heard that song. Again and again, and discovered the concept of "overplaying."

      If they were going to overplay something, why not the theme from Rocky, or Star Wars?

  • by thbb (200684) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:00PM (#37062914) Homepage

    Of course:

    Q: how do you make a light shine in a blonde's eyes?
    A: you point a flash light at her ear.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:07PM (#37062976)

    no really do you see that often is this stupid post day or some shit?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:13PM (#37063040)

    Come on baby light my fire

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:14PM (#37063050) Journal
    So what's to stop me from sticking a couple of AAA-size maglites in my ears for a while and calling it good?
  • ... when its host has a hole in its head that needs patching up.

  • by flimflammer (956759) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:21PM (#37063112)

    You mean along the same line as garbage like Light Relief [lightrelief.com]?

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:33PM (#37063226)
    Surely they mean heat. That I will believe. Slashdot is sliding into the abyss a little further every day. Well it's not just slashdot - ever since they brought internet access to the trailer parks, there's been a change. And the law of averages and the law of large numbers means that the future does not look bright for us nerds.
  • by frankgod (218789) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:48PM (#37063340)
    Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real problem for a lot of people. However, it skews heavily towards women so it's not surprising to see that it's unknown on /. Check the Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] for a good rundown.

    After seeing this I was really excited and ready to order. But that's because I have the worst possible form of SAD. Even in the SF bay area I am miserable for a couple months or so of the rainy season. I'd pay way more than $300 to avoid the energy drain.

    As a sufferer I can tell you that it's not just the self-funded and published nature that is suspicious. It's also the timing. I get really antsy as winter starts to get close. There's plenty of summer weather left here but there's less time in say, Finland. I also noticed that Valkee launched its product in August last year.

    Sadly, there's no cure for SAD. It's something you have to learn to manage and live with. Essentially all research into it was stopped once it was discovered that light therapy works for most people and drugs don't. So it's unlikely that anyone will prove or disprove the study here. It's also unlikely that we will see anything less biased either. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn't.

    I know shining light in your ear sounds really stupid but if you are sick and miserable you will try anything to get better. I don't know about the ear but I do find normal light therapy to be insufficient. That reminds me to get out and take a nice walk in the sunshine!

  • by aquabat (724032) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @06:51PM (#37063362) Journal
    No, we should not say "earlumes". Please, no.
    • by vuo (156163) on Friday August 12, 2011 @01:43PM (#37070690) Homepage
      For the record, I coined that word on the fly, since "korvavalo" would be mispronounced anyway. Phone = sound, lume = light. Didn't check that with my Greek colleague, though - any volunteers? "Valkee" is also nice, it's not just Finnish, but Oulu dialect: "bright".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @07:10PM (#37063520)

    The brain needs the light, keep your hair shorter to prevent shadows!

  • by Corson (746347) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @08:12PM (#37064084)
    Physicians and biologists have known for a long tine that the pineal gland (epiphysis), which is a remnant of the "third eye" still present in some reptiles, contains active photoreceptors and regulates hormonal circadian rhythms by detecting light that is filtered through the back of the eye.
  • by cvtan (752695) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @08:41PM (#37064280)
    Using the reciprocity principle I am now convinced I can hear with my eyes.
  • by tomxor (2379126) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @09:53PM (#37064640)

    This reminds me of the ganglion photoreceptors [wikipedia.org] in the eyes (not rods or cones) they have a lower wavelength absorption peak of ~480nm (blueish) and they are very few compared to the other receptors. They contribute to vision slightly, but their primary role is suspected to be other things like helping to regulate circadian rhythms (i.e. body clock).

    There was an interesting BBC Horizon programme recently that touched on this subject, "Do You See What I See? [bbc.co.uk]", which was primarily exploring colour perception in general. One specific part (where they talk about ganglion cells), they show a bar who's "Light Designer" used blue light of timed intensity to make people more lively in the evening... this is thought to be because that wavelength of light activates the ganglion cells and alters the mood and alertness of people.

    I suppose this could do the same if there were the same or similar types of cells in the ears or brain, but honestly... you could probably achieve more stimulating effects by closely staring at a 20 pence 470nm LED

    • by MasaMuneCyrus (779918) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @10:15PM (#37064700)

      This is interesting because I have read some years ago that the US Air Force has experimented with using blue LEDs mounted on the head but somewhat behind the eyes, and doing so resulted in pilots being able to fly for significantly longer times. It was presumed to tell their circadian rhythm, "no, it's not night time, yet."

  • by MasaMuneCyrus (779918) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @10:11PM (#37064694)

    I've noticed for years now that if I shine the light of an optical mouse in my ear, even with my eyes closed, even with someone else doing it with my eyes closed, I hear a high-frequency ring only at the times the light is shining in my ears.

    But I don't know if this is because of the effect described in TFA or something to do with the engineering of optical mice.

    • Holy shit that's crazy. I totally thought you were an idiot, and then I tried it, and yep, a high-pitched tone.

      Of course, it also works when I press the back of the mouse against my ear, with the light shining in the other direction, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say they have nothing to do with each other and partially return to my initial assumption. It will definitely be useful as another way to find people who are bad a critical thinking though.

      • by MasaMuneCyrus (779918) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @09:58AM (#37085034)

        It will definitely be useful as another way to find people who are bad a critical thinking though.

        Mine doesn't do it unless the light is shining directly into my ear. It also works with the mouse quote distant from my head; it works as far as I am able to physically stretch my arm away and still aim the light at my ear. I have an old ambidextrous optical Logitech with the aqua bubble (or whatever you'd call it) on top.

        I can also hear a high-pitch ringing when the charging LED on my laptop and razor are on (they blink on and off, so it's easy to tell that the noise is coming from the LED -- high pitch noise when the light turns on and no noise when it turns off), so maybe this has something to do with the lighting. Not all LEDs do it, though. Or maybe it has something to do with the current. I have no idea, but it feels roughly the same high-pitch frequency as you hear when you turn a TV on.

        I don't know, I'm not an electrical engineer. If anyone knows, please chime in.

        • Most people, before they break the habit, are very good at lying to themselves to prevent ever having to believe they're wrong.. See, now you've called in the experts, and if nobody responds, you can go right on believing that it's the light itself that's making the noise, or whatever other goofy thing you're thinking that essentially boils down to "I can hear light" without actually saying it because you know that's ridiculous. Before you even try to figure out the answer, take a step back and look at the mental gymnastics you're doing right now.

          It's not all bad. Your reply is a good start--you could have just ignored my comment and quietly continued to believe the same as you did before.

          This is why they don't allow participants in studies to know which group they're in. It's not a matter of intelligence, people will "signal" without even realizing it, even if it's the thing they want to do least in the world. I highly doubt your mouse is that well insulated. Listen to it again, listen hard (don't just put it up to your ear while going lalala in a noisy room), press it up to your ear from the back like you're trying to listen through a wall.

          I don't know exactly what is causing it, but mice are electronics. Most electronics have capacitors in them, and capacitors make noise. That's my guess, but there's plenty of other stuff that could do it. I can say with a pretty high degree of confidence though, you're not hearing photons, and your mouse is not producing sound so strongly directional that you can only hear it from one side.

    • by ThorGod (456163) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @11:45PM (#37065118) Journal

      Have you tried making the sound back to it? Maybe you can get the mouse to move on the screen if you 'sing the mouse tune' right. /silly

  • by sumdumgai (92866) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @10:17PM (#37064708) Homepage

    when I could see music flowing out of the speakers.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @11:25PM (#37064992) Journal
    You aren't going to get useful amounts of light to the brain through the ears! Worse, what light you do get will be all dim and orange/reddish, and throw your circadian rhythms for a loop because you think it is sunset all the time. Worthless.

    Here, just for my Slashdot friends, is the secret to really showing 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' who is boss:

    Simply passing electrons through the cerebrospinal and intracellular fluids of the brain at a speed greater than that of light within those media will bathe the brain in a lovely, broad-spectrum, delicate blue glow [wikimedia.org]. This will stimulate photo-receptors that aural lighting cannot hope to reach.

    Unfortunately, due to high costs and a coverup by the alarm-clock/industrial complex, you may have to sneak into a nearby university or DOE laboratory in order to use a linear accelerator of sufficient power. While Cherenkov radiation can also restore vigor to the scalp and reverse balding, you need energy sufficient to pass through the skull in order to see circadian benefits.
    • by vuo (156163) on Friday August 12, 2011 @02:28PM (#37071620) Homepage
      The brain isn't the retina - it can't distinguish colors with a single protein. The only concern is the convolution integral of the energy spectrum of the light filtering through the bone in the ear canal and the response spectrum of the photosensitive pigment in the brain cells. If the wavelength absorption/detection maximum is different from the spectrum of the delivered light, only the tails of the wavelength distribution will actually affect the brain cells.

      I have no doubt that some light will reach the brain, my only doubt if it has a clinical benefit. For many of the things that are marketed for a measurable effect on physiology, the marketers fail to mention that although the effect is statistically significant, it's not very large. Patients affected with a serious illness such as SAD could easily expect a 100% cure, even though a drug or other treatment could provide a 20% improvement only.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @03:27PM (#37080558) Journal
      I can't believe that I was modded "interesting" for a joke post where I suggested sticking your head in a linear accelerator...
  • by jones_supa (887896) on Friday August 12, 2011 @05:47AM (#37066380)
    This scam appeared in Finland over a year ago. :) Metku.net even made a DIY version [metku.net] of it.
  • by Syberz (1170343) on Friday August 12, 2011 @08:04AM (#37066846) Homepage
    People have been claiming this for quite a while. In fact, many Stop Smoking clinics shine lasers in people's ears which triggers something which removes the urge to smoke. Or so I hear, I have no clue whether or not this technique actually works.
  • by compwizrd (166184) on Friday August 12, 2011 @09:53AM (#37067738) Homepage

    I remember reading not too long ago about using infrared light to stimulate the hair cells or nerves in the ear.. it was thought that using an infrared laser could work better than the current electrode method of a Cochlear Implant.

  • by AugstWest (79042) on Friday August 12, 2011 @11:31AM (#37068850)

    I listen to sounds of nature on my headphones at work. I use a program called Ambiance (Adobe Air app) that lets me mix various field recordings, which keeps me more alert than coffee, and drowns out the blabbering of my cubicle neighbors. It also helps my mood, as it usually sounds like a Spring afternoon.

    This has me thinking -- can I add some sort of lights source into my headphones? They're full ear-covering headphones, so I could produce a lot of light in them without affecting those around me, or much of it leaking out.

    Does anyone know of a decent small, battery-powered light source I could do some testing with?

  • by DutchUncle (826473) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:36PM (#37098986)
    It has already been shown that areas other than the eyeballs respond to visible light below the obvious intensity of feeling heat (that is, not talking about bright sunlight). This may be a new specific point, but the general idea is not surprising. As for SAD and light therapy, I believe this is one of the things that - like allergies and food sensitivities - is very idiosyncratic and hard to standardize. But then, so is taste.

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