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Human Brain Is Sensitive To Light In Ears

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the also-to-the-name-of-the-devil dept.

Medicine 130

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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130 comments

The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (5, Informative)

kamelkev (114875) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (2)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 2 years ago | (#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Of course it's not peer reviewed: it's not being published in a reputable journal.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.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (5, Insightful)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

I'm not that certain (1)

F69631 (2421974) | more than 2 years ago | (#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".

Re:I'm not that certain (3, Informative)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:I'm not that certain (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063310)

The brain is above, I'd suggest looking at some good 3D MRI imaging. what a load of BS this is.

Re:I'm not that certain (2)

Rei (128717) | more than 2 years ago | (#37064552)

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.

Re:I'm not that certain (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:I'm not that certain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37064910)

Actually, the reason why the back of your hands glow is because your skin is semi-transparent and acts sortof like a fiber optic line around your fingers/whatnot. Tissue as in, the stuff under your skin, is very good at blocking light.

And last I checked, skin doesn't reach your brain. There is bone/structures in between the ear canal and your brain, and only a tiny bit where the nerves travel through.

Re:I'm not that certain (1)

Plunky (929104) | more than 2 years ago | (#37065914)

So if you have a keyring laser, try this.. in a darkened room, with your eyes closed and/or a blindfold, shine it onto the soft tissue at the upper back of your mouth.. you can see it glowing too, right? I can certainly detect that.. Alas I don't have a keyring laser anymore, but I fully believe that you may be able to detect one shining into your ear canal..

But kids, don't shine that laser into your remaining ear!

Re:I'm not that certain (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37065610)

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.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063030)

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.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063320)

It's less awkward to wear earphones than to wear noseplugs.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063862)

Its not credible at all when their own website [valkee.com] indicates that when you use it doesnt matter. When you use sunlamps absolutely matters, and if this device actually worked using it at night would give you insomnia.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066016)

OPN3 is not the main protein involved in vision transduction (it's rhodopsin, from the same family, but not the same thing), and the insomnia you're referring to would involve the connection to the SCN, which is likely not the case with audition related opsins.

Still, I'd trust well researched data over a PR stunt for a new gadget any day. And this was NOT in vivo, so who knows what those cadavars actually experienced in life. It was there, but I don't think we can say what OPN3 was doing exactly without making a series of inferences and assumption based conjectures.

*This was another message from your friendly neighbourhood neuroscientist*

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37065186)

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

Don be so shure. The ear iz a werry easy way to put.. cree-churz in your bodeez.. to contrrol your minds.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#37065752)

[in a monotonous voice] On to new business. Today's mission is for all of you to go to the Brain Slug Planet.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (2)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#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

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063186)

It probably is. Conferences and workshops are much bigger in Computer Science than most every other field.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

tloh (451585) | more than 2 years ago | (#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] .

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#37062880)

Yeah, my first thought was not light, but the heat of the light being beamed into your ear. I know you can feel temperature in your ear. (try dumping some nice room temperature peroxide in there... it's cold!)

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063866)

They specifically mention photoreceptors, and if heat were the active agent they would be using infrared.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

vuo (156163) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063756)

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.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (3, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (2)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:The slide of Slashdot contribution continues... (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062480)

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

Nice Ad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062492)

Great way to grab some bucks. Right, Tim?

Is this More Than an LED in you Ear? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Is this More Than an LED in you Ear? (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37062710)

The idea that there may be neurons somewhere within the brain that are photosensitive is plausible enough. However, light shining in the ear won't ever reach them.

Re:Is this More Than an LED in you Ear? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062970)

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?

Not the inside of your ear, your brain. Know how you can shine a bright flashlight through the meat in your hand, but not through the bones? Same thing, bright enough light in the ear goes through flesh and illuminates the brain, because your ears are holes in your skull.

Doesn'r prove there's anything to it, but IMO rather more plausible than your ear itself reacting to light.

(Also, don't use 3xAA -- that's sooooo '80s tech. Use USB and a 3.3ohm resistor!)

Re:Is this More Than an LED in you Ear? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062988)

"Now someone tell me that this really works, that shining light i my ear is going to change my mood and outlook on life."

No, you're a borderline moody bastard, you'd need a hole in the head to shine a couple of thousand watts into your tiny brain.

Re:Is this More Than an LED in you Ear? (2)

xquercus (801916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063146)

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.

Oh, you left out the super secret part that makes the whole thing work! The current limiting resistor!

Re:Is this More Than an LED in you Ear? (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 2 years ago | (#37064150)

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.

Oh, you left out the super secret part that makes the whole thing work! The current limiting resistor!

Yeah a SED (smoke emitting diode) is not what you want here.

Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062532)

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

Re:Me (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062848)

That would have been a better title for this article.

"light behind knees" for jetlag? (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:"light behind knees" for jetlag? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062696)

Yes, it's not just the ears!
I've been stuffing LEDs up my nose for years.

Re:"light behind knees" for jetlag? (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 2 years ago | (#37064194)

The paper behind the 1998 article didn't even claim photoreceptors. They just wanted to test whether light applied to the bloodstream through the skin affected the body's rhythm, and the knees have a lot of blood vessels.

What about people who are blind..? (1)

Vegan Cyclist (1650427) | more than 2 years ago | (#37062588)

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

Re:What about people who are blind..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062816)

Nothing, because the article is pure and utter bunk.

The proof is left to the student.

Re:What about people who are blind..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063252)

Well, they still could read using their fingertips ... at least according to 1920s French writer, Jules Romain ("Traité sur la vision dermo-optique") & 1990s para-psychology research (not talking of full-fledge sight here, only close-contact light sensitivity ... maybe similar to the way colors impact mood, according to both XVIIth century Avicenna & 21th century's patented phototherapy : specific-lenght laser on accupuncture points).

But, hey, it's not as profitable as paying a neuro-surgeon to drill a hole in the brain & insert some camera-connected trans-cranial stimulation device, then pay the computer experts to stimulate previously used vision part of the cortex. (the underscript says in works if you have ${x}*100'000 in the bank AND a previously-developped visual part of the cortex .. ergo, no born-blind here, but roughly bat's echo-location capabilities)

--
Forget the past, we have Stuff(c) doing the same thing, and look, its Patent-able

what about the colon? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062616)

is it sensitive to a reverse cranial insertion therapy?

no sunlight == depression? (1)

unclepedro (312196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37062620)

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

Re:no sunlight == depression? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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)

Re:no sunlight == depression? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063168)

Please go shill your pseudoscience elsewhere. Out of curiosity though how much does a slashvertisment cost?

Oh... "ear" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062728)

I guess I can sit down again.

Re:Oh... "ear" (1)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063406)

I guess I can sit down again.

Well, light might go into yours, but I'm pretty sure the sun shines out of mine!

So, what you are saying is... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 2 years ago | (#37064626)

Well, light might go into yours

That his orifice captures light?

Like a... black hole?

I call shenanegans (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 2 years ago | (#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

Re:I call shenanegans (1)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:I call shenanegans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063300)

> Why not a simpler experiment first - shine some light in some ears and see if it gets perceived.

Perhaps because a lack of conscious perception does not mean a lack of effect.

Perceived ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063440)

Lets do some crappy science : ask a new-born if he understands you (mind you, no cerebral activity measuring, only 'perception')
Conclusion : Small Humans cannot hear.

Same thing happened with the so-called Cell-phone radiation effect : ask people if they perceive anything, DO NOT EVER test their cortisol blood levels (they may tell you something)
Conclusion : apart from some Random Person (we'll average them out of the trials next time, promiss Mr Big Wallet Telco), there is no such thing as Electro-Magnetic sensibility.

I have a simple question for your bio-chemistry bias : whenever one meditates (that's delta waves electrical brain activity, for you), one is gradually made aware of his thought patterns. Kindly pinpoint the chemical activity involved.

--
You have no clue how it works, should it be grounds for its disappearance ?

Re:I call shenanegans (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063324)

Not just membrane, bone. have a look at some good 3D imaging. this is utter bullshit

Re:I call shenanegans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37065614)

Obviously, you have never shone a bright light through body parts. It's not bullshit.
Transillumination is used in more than a scrotal exam, it's also used routinely in dentistry and evaluation of the paranasal sinuses.

All you people crying foul, remember: the light doesn't have to bounce back and be visible from the outside for this to work in theory. It only has to enter. There's even one theory about the origins of our Circadian rhythm which completely excludes the eyes (which some creatures don't have (or they don't function)), stating that photoreceptors in the brain are stimulated directly by photons passing through the skull & soft tissues. You would only need 1 photon/day, which is easily possible.

the saddest part... (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:the saddest part... (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063486)

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.

Debbie Boone's new hit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062882)

"You Light Up My Ears"

Re:Debbie Boone's new hit (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063736)

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?

Blonde joke (2)

thbb (200684) | more than 2 years ago | (#37062914)

Of course:

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

Re:Blonde joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063070)

Q: When you look into the beautiful eyes of a blond, what do you see?
A: The back of her head.

i dont see too many tards shining lights in ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37062976)

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

Come on baby light my fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063040)

Come on baby light my fire

This is a means for the brain to tell... (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063086)

... when its host has a hole in its head that needs patching up.

Light Therapy? (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#37063112)

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

Re:Light Therapy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063262)

No, like understanding how light schedules affect our internal circadian rhythm e.g.

http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1000418

Light? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37064706)

The effects of light on the circadian rhythms is well known. I am only a little surprised to find that there are photo receptors in the ears, as it would explain how people who are completely blind still maintain the circadian rhythms according to the day-night cycle.

SAD (1)

frankgod (218789) | more than 2 years ago | (#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!

Yet another reason to keep your hair shorter (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37063520)

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

This is not news (1)

Corson (746347) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066256)

More specifically, in humans, the pineal gland regulates sleeping and wakefullness by the secretion or non secretion of melatonin through the circadian rhythm. This rythmn is controlled by the SCN, which does so in response to light intensity recieved at the retina. These two areas are important but not isolated. The raphe nuclei assist in serotonin production, and the levels of adenosine in the basal forebrain (not far from the SCN) are associated with drowsiness and wakefulness as well.

In fact, there is absolutely no reason why the pineal gland in humans would require photoreceptors at all in regulation the sleep wake cycle. It just needs to be connected to the right brain parts and secrete melatonin appropriately.

So the pineal third eye is basically a Cartesian homonculus throw-back, although some reptilian exceptions may apply.

This is great news! (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37064280)

Using the reciprocity principle I am now convinced I can hear with my eyes.

Hey! Me too! (2)

denzacar (181829) | more than 2 years ago | (#37064670)

I just heard what you said there.

And the optic-hearing apparently works long distance as well. What a glorious day for science this is.

Re:This is great news! (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37065064)

It would actually be quite interesting(if, as with so many interesting things, rather unethical) to see how readily adapted the visual systems of the brain would be to functioning for "hearing"...

The eyes cannot see sound; but there are a variety of ways of systematically visualizing sound. If one were to take a deaf individual, and fill their visual field with a visualization of the sounds around them at all times, would they come to experience "auditory" phenomena?

Re:This is great news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066102)

The eyes cannot see sound; but there are a variety of ways of systematically visualizing sound. If one were to take a deaf individual, and fill their visual field with a visualization of the sounds around them at all times, would they come to experience "auditory" phenomena?

If you mean, do deaf people's cortical regions associated with hearing in non-deaf humans work, the answer is yes, assuming of course they have auditory rather than cortical deafness (note retinal versus cortical blindness).

Deaf people also use the same language parts (Broca, Wernicke's) and so on when using things like Braille/sign language/lip-reading, but it is also associated with reading, vision etc (i.e. may involve some parietal and occipital areas, too).

So they do experience auditory phenomena, just not with their ears. Just like blind people have dreams!

The important thing to remember is everybody uses all of their brains all of the time ;) The question is how much for where and what.

Someone who is not deaf also uses vision when they hear. People typically turn to an auditory stimulus to see where it is coming from, and look at or turn to people when they speak (usually the face but not always), even if vision is not required to sense the source of the sound. And a blind person does the same thing, even though they cannot see the speaker or source, they can hear it, and their attention is directed towards it.

Also, all animals that dream can experience sound and vision with their eyes and ears not being the source. So it is not a stretch to say that a deaf person will have auditory experiences from visual ones, if the appropriate sites are activated. I'd say it's probably already been discovered long ago, and is unrelated to original topic.

Re:This is great news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37065926)

Using the reciprocity principle I am now convinced I can hear with my eyes.

Yes you can! You just need to turn up the bass enough... Eyes are quite sensitive to pressure after all.

Ganglion Photoreceptors (1)

tomxor (2379126) | more than 2 years ago | (#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

Re:Ganglion Photoreceptors (1)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 2 years ago | (#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."

Shine an optical mouse in your ear (1)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Shine an optical mouse in your ear (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 2 years ago | (#37064972)

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.

Re:Shine an optical mouse in your ear (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#37065118)

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

Re:Shine an optical mouse in your ear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37065642)

I can hear when a CRT is powered on (TV or computer monitor). Something about the magnetic field, which is apparently stimulating something in my ears, allowing me to hear a very high pitched sound. I've met one other person who experiences the same.

Re:Shine an optical mouse in your ear (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 2 years ago | (#37065676)

I can hear when a CRT is powered on (TV or computer monitor). Something about the magnetic field, which is apparently stimulating something in my ears, allowing me to hear a very high pitched sound. I've met one other person who experiences the same.

Simpler than that -- you may just be hearing the whine of a flyback transformer, which at 15.5 kHz lies within the normal range of hearing.

Tosh! (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37064992)

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.

obscene prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37065804)

You can build your own version of this for a few dollars, if not cents. It's not worth hundreds.

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