August 11, 2011

The Human Brain is Sensitive to Light, Breakthrough Findings From Valkee and the University of Oulu

HELSINKI and BERGEN, Norway, August 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

Valkee (, inventor of the world's first
bright-light headset, and scientists from the University of Oulu will
present new findings on human brain's photosensitivity at the Scandinavian
Physiology Society Annual Meeting 2011, August 12-14.

Their research localized the OPN3 protein - known as the light-sensitive
photoreceptor protein - in all of the 18 evaluated areas of the brain. These
brain areas include the core areas of serotonin and melatonin production and
storage, which play key roles in mood, sleep and depression. The study shows
that the human brain is sensitive to light also outside of the visual

"The human brain is broadly photosensitive. The photoreceptor proteins
we found are known to take light stimulus and transfer it into neural
signals. Channeling light directly to these brain areas via ear canal will
generate a response in the photosensitive cells", commented Juuso Nissila,
Valkee co-founder and chief scientific officer.

"The study shows that we have brain cells that react to light when
exposed directly. These results are encouraging, especially for bright-light
therapy channeled via ear canal direct to brain tissue", summarized
professor Seppo Saarela, PhD, head of the biology department and leading the
research at the University of Oulu.

Valkee launched its bright-light headset in August 2010. Being based on
cross-functional science in neurology, biology and psychiatry, Valkee is a
CE-certified Class II(a) medical device under the EU regulations.

The research paper will be available for download at on Friday, August 12, 2011, after its scientific
presentation at noon CET.

About Valkee

The Valkee bright-light headset channels bright light direct to the
human brain via ear canals to prevent and cure mood swings and
circadian-rhythm disorders such as jetlag. In clinical trials, 9 of 10
patients suffering from severe seasonal affective disorder - also known as
winter blues - experienced total symptom relief in 4 weeks with a daily 8-12
minute dose. Valkee is based on scientific studies carried out since 2007
and is a CE-marked Class II(a) medical device. More information and for
online shop

About the University of Oulu

The University of Oulu, one of the largest universities in Finland, is
an international research and innovation university engaged in
multidisciplinary basic research and academic education. The University
cooperates closely with industry and commerce, and has broad connections
with hundreds of international research and educational institutions. The
study fields include Humanities, Education, Economics and Business, Science,
Medicine, Dentistry, Health Sciences, and Technology. For more information

About the presented research

Method: The distribution and localization of OPN3 protein in human brain
and peripheral tissues was assessed by immunohistochemical staining, using
polyclonal antibody against OPN3. The OPN3 protein content was measured
using western blotting and SDS-PAGE. The samples from nine cadavers were
assessed during forensic examination. Samples were cut into sections and
fluerescent dye labeled antibody was used to stain before confocal laser
scanning microscopy. Primary antibody omitting and immunizing peptide
blocking experiments secured the specificity of labeling and

Results: The OPN3 protein is abundant in the human brain and, as
expected, not in periphery or in negative controls. Neuronal OPN3 was
present in granular pattern intracellularly in all of the eighteen examined
sites, including numerous cerebral cortical areas, cerebellar cortex and
several nuclei in phylogenetically old regions. Immunoreaction took place
mostly in neuronal soma, but not in nuclei.

Conclusion: Previously in mRNA-level assessments, OPN3 encoding has
actually resulted in the abundant presence of OPN3 protein in neurons of
human brain, but not in non-neuronal peripheral tissues. OPN3 (aka. panopsin
or enkephalopsin) belongs to the families of extraretinal opsins which have
putative role in CNS tissue photosensitivity. OPN3 mRNA has previously been
localized in rodent brains and in mRNA expression level in the human brain,
but the actual protein and it's location has not been clarified. In this
study, we aimed to define OPN3 protein localization, its abundance in the
human brain and the site of cellular locality.