Your brain needs bright light

Expert insight:

Researchers found that when rats were exposed to dim light during the day for a period of four weeks, they lost about 30 percent of the capacity in their hippocampus, which is a part of the brain associated with learning and memory, and did poorly on a spatial task that they had done well on previously. By comparison, another group of rats who were exposed to artificial bright light every day for the same period improved their performance on the spatial test. “Sustained exposure to dim light led to a marked reduction in a peptide that maintains healthy connections and neurons in the hippocampus,” explains study author Antonio A. Nunez, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience at Michigan State University. “It also caused a reduction in dendritic spines, which are the connections that allow neurons to communicate with one another.” And although the study was performed on rats, Nunez believes that the results would also translate to humans because both species are active during the day and dormant at night.

The bottom line:

While further research is needed on type of light and timing, it may be helpful to keep your office well-lit, says Nunez. Additionally, getting sunlight first thing in the morning can also help athletes sleep better.

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