Lightbox improves cognitive function and mood in veterans with TBI, study finds

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A new study by researchers published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experiment Biology at the VA Portland Health Care System in Oregon found that augmenting traditional treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI) with morning bright light therapy (MBLT) improved physical and mental symptoms for participants.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), over 185,000 veterans have been diagnosed with at least one TBI. TBI is both a common and complex injury. Because of the circumstances surrounding the brain injury, TBI frequently coincides with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cognitive and memory impairments and poor sleep quality often result from these paired conditions. The current treatment methods for TBI, which focus on improving the cognitive symptoms, have inconsistent results, the researchers said.

Noting the reciprocal relationship between sleep disruption and cognitive function, the research team focused on addressing the sleep quality in the experimental group. Over the course of eight weeks, one group received group cognitive therapy, while the other received cognitive therapy as well as 60 minutes of MBLT within two hours of waking each day.

The MBLT group reported improvements to cognitive function, sleep, depression, neuropsychiatric trauma symptoms. The traditional therapy group did not report improvements in any of these areas.

The study demonstrates a highly feasible mechanism to improve cognitive function and the efficacy of current treatment, and ultimately overall quality of life in U.S. veterans, the researchers said.

The researchers presented their work virtually at the American Physiological Society's annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2021.