Oulu SAD Cure Company Claim to Have Finally Answered their Critics
An Oulu-based company’s anti-depression device, which claims to cure seasonal affective disorder by shining a light into the ear, has aroused fierce controversy since it first came on the market a few years ago.
‘Valkee,’ produced by the company of the same name and retailing at 185 euros, supposedly markedly reduces the winter blues. However, it has been heavily criticised because the company initially put it on sale based on very little scientific evidence that it worked, much of the evidence is published in non-peer-reviewed venues, the sample used hasn’t been large enough, placebo is not properly controlled for and the researchers producing the scientific articles have a conflict of interest because they work, in some cases, for the company.
However, Valkee now claim to have answered most of these criticisms. According to the company, new research published on 29th May in the World Journal of Neuroscience, drawing on a test which was placebo-controlled and involved 51 subjects, has proven the science behind Valkee: brain tissue really is responsive to light shone through the ear canal.
‘The research confirms that it is possible to influence brain functions with bright light delivered directly to the brain through the ear,’ said Tuomas Starck of Oulu University Hospital, one of the authors of the article. ‘The group that received bright light demonstrated in the analysis significant increase in neural network activity especially in the brain areas connected with visual perception.’
Prof. Timo Takala, of the Oulu Deaconess Institute, added, in a press release, that, ‘There is earlier proof of the existence of photosensitive proteins, such as opsins, in the brain. This study confirms light-responsiveness of the brain itself, and that bright light given through the ear canal is a very viable method for influencing mood.’
However, even this might not completely silence the critics. One of the co-authors of the article is Juuso Nissilä, a co-founder of Valkee who is doing his PhD on the research behind the device.
Juuso Nissilä told 65DN that, in his view, all academic researchers have some kind of conflict of interest because they usually have emotional reasons for being interested in their subject matter. ‘For example, in humanistic studies, people who research marginal groups are often part of these groups,’ he stated.
Mr Nissilä stressed that academics should be clear about conflicts and he suggested that academic critics of Valkee have often ‘invested their careers in the view that light only passes through the eyes.’
The article’s abstract and references can be found here: http://www.scirp.org/journal/