Everyone has an opinion on Valkee, the headset that shoots bright light into the ear canal to treat and prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). It’s not unreasonable to have some doubts about the device’s claims; the theory that the ear canal contains the path to the brain’s photosensitive areas is an odd concept to most laymen. And the device, which has small light bulbs inside what looks like MP3 player headphones, does seem strange enough to be touted on a late-night infomercial as a miracle cure for weight loss. But regardless of the misconceptions, this week scientists from the University of Oulu are presenting two peer reviewed clinical trials at the 11th International Forum for Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Budapest with strong results in favor of Valkee’s claims.
In the first study done on Valkee, over a four week period with a daily 8-12 minute Valkee dose, 92% of the patients with SAD achieved full remission measured by the self-rated BDI-21, the most widely used questionnaire for rating depression. In this study, the daily time of usage was personalized at the study clinic.
And in the randomized controlled trial presented this week in Budapest, 89 subjects suffering from severe seasonal affective disorder had a 12-min daily Valkee dose at home in three different randomly divided groups of one, four, and nine lumen. The response rates in the sub-groups were 74-79% for seasonal depression and 47-62% for anxiety symptoms, and included at least 50% reduction in BDI-21 and HAMA score at week four. The daily administration time was fixed to the morning, after waking up.
“These two trials show that bright light channeled into the brain via ear canal is an important future method to treat seasonal affective disorder”, comments professor Timo Takala, MD, PhD, and chief physician at Oulu Deaconess Institute.
Valkee’s roots have always been rooted in neurology, biology, psychiatry and physiology. Since his time as a student of biology, cofounder Juuso Nissilä had been conducting research to test and prove that the human brain is photosensitive in the same way that many animals brains have been proven to be. From this exploration Nissilä developed the concept of Valkee and with Antti Aunio, and launched their headset in August of 2010.