Making The Most of Light during Quarantine

The World Health Organization agrees that sunlight stimulates our circulation, allowing our blood to flow and bodies to detox, boosting our immune system and our mood !

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a prevalent condition affecting 16.2% of the US population at some point in life. Just think about how much that number will climb during unprecedented events like COVID-19 as we may face financial uncertainty, anxiety, the death of loved ones, or combat illness ourselves.

During these challenging times, light can be an overlooked but important ally in maintaining your health and well-being. However, getting adequate amounts of sunshine can prove to be a challenge during quarantine or self-isolation!

The sun in the morning and before sundown has many positive effects, particularly during self-quarantine. Sunshine effectively gives you vitamin D that helps you sleep better, reduces stress, boosts the auto-immune system and makes stronger bones.

But what if we took the science one step further and harnessed the power of light to treat depression? Transcranial photobiomodulation (t-PBM) with nearinfrared radiation (NIR) has emerged as a potential antidepressant treatment in both animal models and human studies. T-PBM consists of delivering near-infrared or red light to the scalp of the patient, which penetrates the skull and modulates functions in the brain to increase its metabolism, neuro-plasticity, oxygenation — while reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

As we continue exploring the benefits and applications of this treatment and dream of returning outdoors, if possible, don’t forget to make the most of sunlight during quarantine through indirect exposure (windows can filter out some of the beneficial rays but allow some of the benefits of photobiomodulation).

Paolo Cassano & Alexa Masucci

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of Photobiomodulation at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Neuropsychiatry