A ‘LIGHT BULB’ MOMENT FOR PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA

University-led collaboration tests whether new fluorescent lighting developed by GE can synchronize hospitalized patients’ sleep-wake cycles

Change the lighting; improve your health. It’s a strategy researchers from Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing and the School of Medicine, the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center (GRECC), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center and GE Consumer & Industrial have begun to test in a long-term care facility where daylight, which has proven health benefits, is not readily available.

Members of university-led collaboration

From left, Thomas Hornick, associate director at the GRECC at the Veterans Affairs Hospital and associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; Edward Yandek, manager of North American industry standards (retired), GE Consumer & Industrial; Patricia Higgins, associate professor of nursing at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University; Mark Duffy, engineering and technology systems manager, GE Consumer & Industrial; and William W. Beers, lead design engineer, GE Consumer & Industrial.

The researchers removed some standard fluorescent lighting and installed new blue-white lamp prototypes developed by GE scientists at the company’s Nela Park campus.

Research team members hypothesize that periods of blue light, like daylight, can help regulate the sleep-wake rhythm, which is a behavioral pattern linked to the 24-hour biochemical circadian cycle of the hormone melatonin. Depending on the level of the hormone, people are awake or sleepy.

The researchers want to regulate the sleep-wake cycle by regulating the amount of exposure to blue (wakefulness) and yellow (sleepiness) light. By increasing exposure to blue-white light during the day and yellow-white light in the evening, researchers hope to help patients regulate their sleep-wake cycles so that they are more awake during the day and more asleep at night.

Patricia Higgins, associate professor at the School of Nursing and one of the lead investigators, says the project may prove to be especially beneficial for people suffering from dementia.

In a recently conducted pilot study with five male patients, each suffering from dementia and living in a long-term care facility, researchers installed the blue-white lights in an activities room where most residents gathered for meals and daytime activities.

"We wanted to see whether lighting could affect the participants’ sleep-wake rhythms," says Higgins. "While the group was small, the results show promise in raising activity levels during daytime hours and increasing sleep at nighttime."

The researchers plan a larger study with residents with dementia at two Northeast Ohio long-term care facilities. The study will include men and women to see if light impacts the genders differently. An unexpected side effect of the lighting is that once adjusted to the blue-white light, most employees reported that they liked the new lighting conditions.

For a number of decades it has been known that light affects how people feel. Those particularly sensitive to changes in light have benefited from a boost in the brightness of light sources. The new lighting used in the test changes the color without overpowering individuals with brightness, according to the researchers.

"Why waste light if you can tune it to the right color and maximize the amount of useful light," says Mariana Figueiro, assistant professor at Rensselaer and program director at Rensselaer’s Lighting Research Center."Light is a good stimulus for the circadian system, which regulates your sleep-wake cycles," says Thomas Hornick, associate director at the GRECC at the Veterans Administration Hospital and associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He says it is known that certain drugs do better when given at the appropriate time in the circadian cycle.

As a safe, nonpharmacological intervention, researchers also hope to apply information from the study to changing the lighting in hospitals where patients may have a speedier recovery or improved quality of life with a good night’s rest.

"We’re innovators at heart," says Mark Duffy, engineering and technology systems manager, GE Consumer & Industrial. "Our goal entering this collaboration was to apply the passion and inventiveness, which we bring to every customer need or application, to a project that has implications for society at large. We’re proud to be part of this effort."

If changing the lighting works to improve health, the researchers plan to take what would be a natural next step: trying to influence public policy to include new lighting standards for healthcare facilities.

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Case Western Reserve University is among the nation’s leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case Western Reserve offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. www.case.edu.

GE Consumer & Industrial spans the globe as an industry leader in major appliances, lighting and integrated industrial equipment, systems and services. Providing solutions for commercial, industrial and residential use in more than 100 countries, GE Consumer & Industrial uses innovative technologies and ecomaginationSM, a GE initiative to aggressively bring to market new technologies that help customers and consumers meet pressing environmental challenges, to deliver comfort, convenience and electrical protection and control. General Electric (NYSE: GE), imagination at work, sells products under the Monogram®, Profile™, GE®, Hotpoint®, SmartWater™, Reveal® and Energy Smart® consumer brands, and Entellisys®, Tetra®, Vio® and Immersion® commercial brands. For more information, consumers may visit www.ge.com.

The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center proudly serves 100,000 veterans throughout northeastern Ohio each year in its two medical centers and thirteen community-based outpatient clinics. The Cleveland VA is one of the most cost effective of the VA’s large teaching hospitals and leads the VA with seven Clinical Centers of Excellence in Open Heart Surgery, Substance Abuse, Care of the Seriously Mentally Ill, Medical Care of the Homeless, Domiciliary, Geriatric Evaluation and Management, and Spinal Cord Injury/Dysfunction Care. The Cleveland VA also leads the VA with two research centers of excellence. The Cleveland VA is fully accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the first VA to receive Joint Commission Disease Specific Certification for Inpatient Diabetes.

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, N.Y., and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. The LRC offers the world’s premier graduate education in lighting, including one- and two-year master’s programs and a Ph.D. program. Since 1988 the LRC has built an international reputation as a reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. The LRC also provides training programs for government agencies, utilities, contractors, lighting designers, and other lighting professionals. For more information, visit www.lrc.rpi.edu.

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