There is something very uplighting about sunshine for anyone who has ever lived in Scotland or most of Northern Europe for that matter. On the flipside, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a depressive mood that is linked to the winter months when the days shorten. Apparently, one way to treat SAD is to use phototherapy by sitting in front of a light box for a couple of hours, thereby mimicking the longer days of summer. I am not sure if it works over and beyond a placebo and I am at a loss to know how one could produce a control for light, but hell, if it works, it works. However, one recent development of phototherapy is really pushing the boundaries of credibility.
According to the website, the Valkee “substitutes the mood-elevating effects of the sun, by channeling safe bright light directly to photosensitive regions of the brain through the ear canal.” Now if I was naive, I might think, “Well I feel more miserable during the winter and phototherapy is supposed to work but I can’t sit in front of a box for two hours. I know I’ll plug it straight into my brain through my ears.”
The last time I looked, receptors sensitive to photons were in the retina. You could rip of the back of someone’s skull and shove the brightest beam into their visual cortex and they would still see absolutely nothing. And the visual cortex is nowhere near the ears. I know, lets shout at the auditory cortex to find out if we can hear better.
Oh I give up sometimes. I am not even going to bother reviewing the ‘scientific evidence’ for this one.