June 07, 2010
Brief Flashes Increase Nocturnal Alertness

Just 2 milliseconds of a light flash per minute boost alertness when you really ought to be sleeping.

Results indicate that subjective sleepiness decreased and objective nighttime alertness improved after participants received a two-millisecond pulse of bright light once per minute for 60 minutes. Flash exposure, as compared with darkness, elicited significant improvement in self-rated alertness and a significant 57-millisecond improvement in median reaction time on the auditory Psychomotor Vigilance Test, compared with no significant improvement after 60 minutes of darkness. This was accompanied by significant changes in the faster frequencies of the EEG following exposure to the flashes.

"We found it shocking that light exposure as brief as a few milliseconds could engender changes in alertness and brain wave activity," said principal investigator Jamie M. Zeitzer, PhD, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. "These results change the manner in which we think about the brain's capacity to respond to light."

Might be useful for night drivers.

How to rig up your own 2 millisecond flash? Anyone have a good idea of how short camera flashes can go?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 07 09:33 PM  Brain Sleep

Lono said at June 8, 2010 9:35 AM:

Good to know - I may try something like this on my next major road trip!

I'm a bit of a night owl anyways - but although I can easily fall asleep in front of the TV - I have to consiously force myself to go to bed after even just moderate use of my computer.

(I use an old school CRT - many new monitors give me eyestrain and headaches after extensive use)

Randall - you should make and patent a device - get your infomercial on TV!

CyclemotorEngineer said at June 9, 2010 8:50 AM:

I assume that the eyes get it, and not the skin. A pair of high efficiency LEDs on glasses should do the trick. Research abstract does not quantify "bright," but LEDs can be pulsed in the ms time scale very easily, and with greater peak power than steady-state. One would probably want a diffuser on the LED to prevent burning a spot on the retina. Experiment at your own risk!

Rob said at June 9, 2010 2:21 PM:

It would be a snap to take a microcontroller, voltage regulator and one of the new super-gright LEDs and make a flashy-device that plugged into the cigarette lighter. With the flash only being 2 ms, I don't know if it would even mess up night vision...

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