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Bright Light Treatment as Add-On Therapy for Depression in 28 Adolescents: A Randomized Trial

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2011;13(6):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01194
10.4088/PCC.11m01194

Background: In the last decade, a significant incidence of depression in the younger population has been observed. Bright light therapy, an effective therapeutic option for depressed adults, could also provide safe, economical, and effective rapid recovery in adolescents.

Method: The randomized trial included 28 inpatients (18 females and 10 males) between 14 and 17 years old with depressive complaints. The study was conducted between February and December of 2010 in Rodewisch, Germany. Half of the patients (n = 14) first received placebo (50 lux) 1 hour a day in the morning from 9:00 am to 10:00 am for 1 week and then received bright light therapy (2,500 lux) for 1 week in the morning from 9:00 am to 10:00 am. The other half (n = 14) first received bright light therapy and then received placebo. Patients were encouraged to continue ongoing treatment (fluoxetine 20 mg/day and 2 sessions of psychotherapy/week) because there were no changes in medication/dosage and psychotherapy since 1 month before the 4-week study period. For assessment of depressive symptoms, the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was administered 1 week before and 1 day before placebo treatment, on the day between placebo and bright light treatment, and on the day after and 1 week after bright light treatment. Saliva samples of melatonin and cortisol were collected at 8:00 am and 8:00 pm 1 week before and 1 day before placebo treatment, on the day between placebo and bright light treatment, on the day after bright light treatment, and 1 week after bright light treatment and were assayed for melatonin and cortisol to observe any change in circadian timing.

Results: The BDI scores improved significantly (P = .015). The assays of saliva showed significant differences between treatment and placebo for evening melatonin (P = .040). No significant adverse reactions were observed.

Conclusions: Antidepressant response to bright light treatment in this age group was statistically superior to placebo.

Trial Registration: World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform identifier: DRKS00003309

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2011;13(6):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01194

Submitted: April 7, 2011; accepted June 22, 2011.

Published online: December 22, 2011.

Corresponding author: Helmut Niederhofer, MD, PhD, Saechsisches Krankenhaus, Rodewisch, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 08228 Rodewisch, Germany (helmutniederhofer@yahoo.de).