Swedish researchers have made a fascinating discovery with regard to short wavelength blue light that suggests that it could be used as a natural therapy to help improve cognitive function and boost energy levels. In a test comparing the effects of blue light to caffeine and several other modalities, a team of scientists from Mid Sweden University in Ostersund found that simple exposure to blue light actually outperforms caffeine in helping people to think more clearly, focus on the task at hand and have enough energy to get through the day.
While previous research has shown that exposure to blue light, especially right before bed, can obstruct the natural sleep cycle by interfering with hormone production, this latest study found quite the opposite in terms of how it affects brain and motor function. Not only does exposure to blue light help promote better focus, according to the latest data, even in the presence of distractions, but it also enhances overall psychomotor function and alertness.
To arrive at this conclusion, a group of 21 healthy individuals was instructed to perform a computer-based psychomotor vigilance test both before and after undergoing one of four randomly assigned trial conditions. These conditions included exposure to the following: white light and a placebo, white light and 240 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, blue light and a placebo, or blue light and 240 mg of caffeine. Following the exposures and the test, the research team analyzed the results using the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale.
What they found was that both the caffeine only and the blue light only groups experienced enhanced accuracy when taking a visual reaction test that required making a decision. Not only were the participants in these two groups better equipped to make the decision, but they were also able to make it faster than those in the other two groups. Additionally, the blue light and caffeine groups were found to have improved overall psychomotor function compared to the other groups.
However, the blue light only group outperformed the caffeine group in several other key areas, one being a test of executive function that involved introducing a distraction into the mix. Those in the blue light only group had improved accuracy and consistently outperformed those in the caffeine only group when both congruent and incongruent distractions were put before them. Visual reaction performance was also substantially improved in the blue light only group, and especially among participants with blue eyes.
“Blue light and caffeine demonstrated distinct effects on aspects of psychomotor function and have the potential to positively influence a range of settings where cognitive function and alertness are important,” wrote the authors about their findings, which were recently published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.