Record grant for scientists to study light and health

A RECORD grant has been awarded to a leading scientist to discover the secrets of the links between lighting and health.

Dr. Mariana Figueiro is among the world’s top experts in the area of light and health, with a focus on bridging science to practical applications aimed at improving human quality of life.

The US-based National Institute on Aging is giving £3.1 million ($3.8 million, €3.4 million) to top researcher Dr. Mariana Figueiro, professor and director at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state.

The institute wants Figueiro to probe if installing so-called ‘circadian lighting’ for elderly people can improve sleep, perception and memory.

It especially wants to see if it helps individuals with mild cognitive impairment, which is a potential early stage of dementia.

Sleep–wake disturbances are evident in 60 per cent of individuals with cognitive impairment.

Healthy sleep could improve both working and long-term memory, and in a best-case scenario, prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Light is the main factor impacting a person’s sleep–wake cycle, telling the body when to go to sleep and when to wake up.

Figueiro will collaborate with Dr. Sara Mednick, associate professor in the Department of Cognitive Sciences at University College Irvine, whose research focuses on the relationship between sleep and memory.

Disruption of sleep–wake and rest–activity rhythms are not only consequences of Alzheimer’s disease but may also drive the disease.

Recent research suggests a link between sleep disruption and the deposit in the brain of amyloid beta, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Figueiro’s previous research has shown that tailored lighting delivering a high circadian stimulus significantly improved sleep, and reduced depression and agitation in people living with Alzheimer’s, compared to baseline and to the inactive condition.

The lighting intervention proposed in the present study could have a significant impact on the quality of life for individuals living with cognitive impairment.

‘Tailored lighting, when properly designed to deliver the correct amount of light at the right time, can positively impact health and wellbeing,’ Figueiro told Lux. ‘We have seen firsthand the many benefits of lighting, but it’s important to get the right lighting to see the positive effects.’

Dr. Figueiro is among the world’s top experts in the area of light and health, with a focus on bridging science to practical applications aimed at improving human quality of life.

 

  • Learn more about circadian lighting at the Lighting for Workplace and Wellbeing Conference, which takes place at the LuxLive 2019 exhibition at London ExCeL on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2018 at ExCeL London. Entry is free if you pre-register HERE.