This is the final year of a directed research project that had reduced aims due to an unexpected funding reduction. The goal is to study the efficacy of blue or blue-enriched white solid-state light for enhancing alertness in men and women as a basis for developing an in-flight lighting countermeasure for enhancing alertness in astronauts and NASA ground crew. For this project, we have four 122 sq cm solid-state light sources: two with narrow-bandwidth (peak 469 nm) LEDs and two with broad-bandwidth blue-enriched LEDS that emit white-appearing light with a Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) of 6,500 K. These units provide a large, uniform light-emitting surface with intensity modulation. An independent safety analysis of both LED light sources based on national (American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)) and international (The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)) criteria has been completed. James Maida of Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Charles Bowen, Ph.D., of Lockheed Martin (retired) have confirmed that the blue LED units meet NASA's safety standards (West et al., 2008).
A melatonin suppression study was conducted with the narrow bandwidth blue LED units to characterize their biological potency and to guide the selection of the light intensity for the multiday alertness study. Healthy subjects (N=8) completed a total of 84 nighttime melatonin suppression experiments. Data analysis was completed showing that the blue LED light evokes a dose-response melatonin suppression, and permitting the calculation of a target intensity for the alertness study. The data also indicate that blue LED light is stronger than 4,000 K white fluorescent light for suppressing melatonin. A peer-review manuscript has been published on these results (West et al., 2011).
Over 300 individuals volunteered to be screened for a 3-day alertness study with the blue LED light units. From that pool of volunteers, 26 subjects completed all medical, psychological, and ophthalmological examinations as well as screens for stability of sleep-wake cycles and drugs of abuse. Of the 24 subjects that entered the study, 22 completed the three-day inpatient alertness protocol. Analysis of plasma melatonin, subjective alertness, objective alertness, and neurobehavioral data was finalized this year. Due to reduced funding, only a partial analysis of polysomnography data was completed. Two presentations have been made at international meetings describing the protocol and a partial analysis of the resultant data set (Hanifin et al., 2010a, 2010b). Preliminary testing of visual performance and color discrimination has been done with selected intensities of the narrow bandwidth blue LEDs with 8 healthy subjects. A pilot study on the consequences of reducing the size of the light-emitting surface to a more flight-worthy size was designed and approved by the Jefferson IRB. Two exposure systems with broad-bandwidth blue-enriched LEDS (6,500 K) were used for this study. Eight healthy male and female subjects completed all 24 nighttime experiments for this study.
The knowledge gained from this research, though focused on space flight, also may benefit people on Earth. The circadian disruption experienced by astronauts during space flight can be considered a threat to the success of space missions (Longnecker and Molins, 2005; NASA Human Research Program Integrated Risk Plan, 2011). The resulting physiological and behavioral changes caused by circadian and sleep disruption can lead to diminished alertness, cognitive ability, and psychomotor performance (Dijk et al., 2001). Over 45% of all medications taken in space are sleep aids taken as a measure to counteract sleep deficits (Putcha et al., 1999). Although the studies in this project are focused on developing a non-pharmacological lighting countermeasure for space exploration, it is anticipated that there will be benefits to civilians. A significant portion of the global population suffers from chronic sleep loss and/or circadian-related disorders. Evidence for disease or illness due to a circadian disruption has mounted significantly. Nearly 22 million Americans do shift work that interferes with a biologically healthy nocturnal sleep cycle (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007). Shift workers have been shown to be more likely to suffer from a wide variety of ailments, including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal distress, and cognitive problems. Furthermore, epidemiological studies of female shift workers have shown that they are more likely to suffer from breast cancer and colon cancer compared to day shift workers. The World Health Organization has identified shift work as a probable risk for cancer (The International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2007). This past year the American Medical Association acknowledged the harmful effects of widespread electrical lighting at night (Council on Science and Public Health Report Report, 2012). Our laboratory is involved in testing the hypothesis that night time exposure to light suppresses melatonin and contributes to cancer risk (Blask et al., 2005; Mao et al., 2012).
Aside from evidence of a breakdown in physical health, the effects of circadian disruption and sleep loss have long been known to have potentially dangerous behavioral effects. Mental fatigue, diminished alertness, loss of psychomotor coordination, and decreased physical performance are all commonly found in individuals with sleep loss, sleep debt, or circadian misalignment. Many people also experience the same effects after air travel across several time zones. The impact of these deficits affects many industries, including transportation, manufacturing, communications, medicine, and homeland security. It has long been a source of concern for the military, as well. In the past, the U.S. Air Force has supported our laboratory to study the acute alerting effects of light (French et al., 1990; Brainard et al., 1996). Our past work for NIH (National Institute of Health) has continued this effort (Lockley et al., 2006).
Existing therapeutic lighting interventions stand to benefit from enhancing our understanding of how different wavelengths of the spectrum affect human circadian and neurobehavioral regulation (Byrne and Brainard, 2012). A more efficient intervention with increased potency and/or fewer side effects could result. One such disorder currently being treated with bright white light is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 Americans suffer from SAD or its milder version, sSAD (Lam and Levitt, 1999). Similar bright white light interventions also are used to treat jetlag. Side effects from exposure to bright white light for these and other therapies include: hypomania, headache, vision problems, nausea, dizziness, and anxiety. Optimizing the light spectrum for specific affective and/or circadian-related disorders could deliver the same medical impact with lower levels of light intensity and, potentially, with fewer side effects. Our group has completed Phase I testing of light therapy with blue solid-state lighting for patients with SAD (Glickman et al., 2006).
|Organizations Performing Work||Role||Type||Location|
|Johnson Space Center (JSC)||Lead Organization||NASA Center||Houston, TX|
This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.
A final report document may be available for this project. If you would like to request it, please contact us.