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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2018, Article ID 5868570, 16 pages
Review Article

Precision Light for the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders

1Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
2Department of Neurology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
3McKnight Brain Research Institute, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
4BIO5 Institute, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Fabian Fernandez; ude.anozira.liame@fnaibaf

Received 1 October 2017; Accepted 5 December 2017; Published 11 January 2018

Academic Editor: Harry Pantazopoulos

Copyright © 2018 Sevag Kaladchibachi and Fabian Fernandez. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Circadian timekeeping can be reset by brief flashes of light using stimulation protocols thousands of times shorter than those previously assumed to be necessary for traditional phototherapy. These observations point to a future where flexible architectures of nanosecond-, microsecond-, and millisecond-scale light pulses are compiled to reprogram the brain’s internal clock when it has been altered by psychiatric illness or advanced age. In the current review, we present a chronology of seminal experiments that established the synchronizing influence of light on the human circadian system and the efficacy of prolonged bright-light exposure for reducing symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder. We conclude with a discussion of the different ways that precision flashes could be parlayed during sleep to effect neuroadaptive changes in brain function. This article is a contribution to a special issue on Circadian Rhythms in Regulation of Brain Processes and Role in Psychiatric Disorders curated by editors Shimon Amir, Karen Gamble, Oliver Stork, and Harry Pantazopoulos.