Light-Responsive Melanopsin Found in Many Parts of the Human Brain
OULU, Finland, May 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ –
More evidence of the effectiveness of bright light directed at the brain
A new study by Oulu University found large amounts of a light-sensitive OPN4-protein,
melanopsin [http://www.valkee.com/uk/science.html#navigation ], in the human brain. The
mood-enhancing influence and circadian pacemaking properties of bright light when
administered through eyes has been shown in earlier studies to be based on the
OPN4-protein. In those studies the protein was found only on the retina. This new
discovery now confirms that bright light, when channeled through the ear canal into the
brain, can have an influence on brain functions.
The study, done at Oulu University, was presented in March at the European Congress of
Psychiatry in Prague. The OPN4-protein was originally discovered in 2000 when it was found
on the retina. In the more recent study at Oulu University the same protein was found in
all the 17 sites of the human brain that were being studied. The presence of the protein
was confirmed using methods of molecular biology.
“The discovery of the research team confirms that some of the brain cells may be
photosensitive. OPN4-protein, also known as melanopsin, is present in brain cells that
have a central role in modulation of several vital functions, including the circadian
rhythm”, says Professor Seppo Saarela of the Oulu University biology department, who led
the study. “Often findings of even classical status are worth re-confirming with
additional measurements by several research groups, utilizing improved methods. The
present study succeeded in locating melanopsin despite the negative results by the earlier
studies. Never before have these measurements been completed on as much human samples as
was used in the study now reported”, emphasizes Saarela.
The new research findings are supportive of effects of bright light therapy
administered directly into the brain through the ear canal.
“Discovery of the photosensitive OPN4-protein in several parts of the human brain adds
to the body of evidence that bright light channeled to the brain directly – not just
through the eyes – can modulate brain functions”, says Chief Science Officer Juuso Nissila
from Finnish company Valkee Oy. The molecules of the opsin family are extremely sensitive
to quantities of light that have been already shown in studies decades ago to penetrate
all the way into central parts of the brain”, he emphasizes.
Bright light is widely recognized as an effective therapy for treating Seasonal
Affective Disorder [http://www.valkee.com ]. The Valkee bright light headset is based on
research findings on photosensitivity of the brain: light is channeled through the ear
canal directly to regions of the brain that are known to be central to depression and that
have been discovered to contain photosensitive proteins in studies at the Oulu University.
Already earlier, in 2011, a research group in Oulu found a photosensitive OPN3-protein
(encephalopsin, panopsin) in the human brain.
Valkee Oy is a health technology company founded in 2007, that has developed a bright
light headset device for treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The knowhow of the
company is based on long term scientific research and development work together with the
Oulu University. For more information on Valkee Oy see http://www.valkee.com or Valkee
For more information: Head of the department, Professor (FT) Seppo Saarela, Oulu University, Biology department tel. +358(0)8-553-1238 firstname.lastname@example.org Chief Science Officer Juuso Nissila, Valkee Oy tel. +358(0)40-701-9897 email@example.com