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From the Melbourne Weekly:
SITTING in front of a light box for 45 minutes a day is a promising treatment to reduce fatigue in patients with traumatic brain injuries, researchers have shown.

Light therapy has previously been used for seasonal affective disorder, studies showing that light hitting the back of the eye can stimulate changes to hormones in the brain and reset the body's circadian rhythm.

Professor of neuropsychology at Monash University, Jennie Ponsford, said she was initially sceptical about its potential to treat patients with traumatic brain injuries, who commonly suffer debilitating fatigue.

But preliminary results from a trial of about 30 patients from the Epworth Hospital, in Melbourne, is showing that the treatment is working to stimulate alertness, allowing people with head injuries to more easily perform daily tasks. Professor Ponsford said many patients treated for head injuries at the hospital were young, aged 15 to 30, and had been injured in car accidents. She said about 70 per cent experience fatigue, which is the most limiting factor for those able to return to work and study.

''It often means they are only able to work part time, or the effort expended in working means they just have to go home and go to bed,'' Professor Ponsford said.

Professor Ponsford said missing connections in the brains of head injury patients led to a range of problems including slowed thinking and difficulty planning and concentrating. She said those problems were likely to at least partly explain their fatigue, which then caused many patients to become depressed.

Professor Ponsford is working with a Monash University sleep expert, Associate Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, to pioneer the light therapy in head injury patients.

They are treating patients with different wavelengths of light, and monitoring a control group that receives no treatment. Those receiving the light treatment sit in front of a light box for 45 minutes within 90 minutes of waking up. Researchers are monitoring their fatigue and sleep patterns, reaction times, and levels of depression and anxiety, and have found that short wavelength light is having a significant impact.

Professor Ponsford said one participant, an academic with a mild head injury who had been struggling to function in a high-powered job, found the treatment had transformed his ability to work.

''People getting the [short wavelength light] therapy are coming back and saying, 'I want one of these boxes'. I must say I was very sceptical about the whole thing, it sounds a bit out there, but I really think it works,'' she said.

Researchers aim to recruit 90 patients in the trial, funded by the Victorian Neurotrauma Initiative, before publishing their final results.

Professor Ponsford said, if it was shown to be effective, the therapy would be a breakthrough in treating fatigue for brain injured patients.

Read at the original source.

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