Mariana Figueiro directs the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she has spent 20 years of study and success in real-world setting with an emphasis on perfecting a light treatment for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias that helps them sleep better—and in the process improve their outlook and reduce depression symptoms. She just received a $3 million grant renewal from the National Institutes on Aging (NIA).
Thus far, Figueiro has demonstrated that “light therapy is a non-pharmacological intervention that makes a significant difference in the overall health of older adults living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. With a goal of actually reducing the number of pills elderly patients need to take, the goal is to make them healthier and, in the process, lighten the load for caregivers as well.
The NIA, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), awarded Figueiro $3 million in 2010 to initiate the research with elderly Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Thereafter, she received her first grant renewal in 2015 and with this latest grant renewal, Figueiro and team can now fine tune their approach to dosage of light, working in long-term health care facilities to find the optimum brightness and duration that makes a quantifiable difference in a patient’s day-to-day.
Figueiro’s work reveals that exposure to bright, blue-hued light throughout the day signals to the body’s internal clock that it is daytime, promising wakefulness. In the evening, dim, warmer orange-hued light tells the body that it’s time to rest. The flat, constant light found in most nursing homes just isn’t strong enough to properly regulate the body’s circadian rhythms reports Rensselaer’s press release. The team’s work has demonstrated that by providing light exposure of certain amounts and qualities throughout the day that actual sleep patterns, sociability, and agitation improves while symptoms of depression can be better managed.
About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world’s leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC conducts research in light and human health, transportation lighting and safety, solid-state lighting, energy efficiency, and plant health. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. Learn more here.
Mariana Figueiro, Lighting Research Center Director