Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Light and the Brain, 2 of 2

Researchers at the University of Montreal and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital have linked light with cognitive brain function and theorized that light is key to maintaining sustained attention (e.g., the brain’s performance is improved when light is present during tasks). Specialized photoreceptors in the retina (intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells or ipRGCs appear to function even in the brains of individuals who were totally blind. According to senior co-author Steven Lockley, fMRI studies showed that during an auditory working memory task, less than a minute of blue light activated brain regions important to perform the task. These regions are involved in alertness and cognition regulation as well being as key areas of the default mode network. This default network apparently helps to keep a minimal amount of resources available for monitoring the environment when the individual is not actively doing something, which could indicated that light is key to maintaining sustained attention.

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