Acute exposure to blue wavelength light during memory consolidation improves verbal memory performance

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Abstract

Acute exposure to light within the blue wavelengths has been shown to enhance alertness and vigilance, and lead to improved speed on reaction time tasks, possibly due to activation of the noradrenergic system. It remains unclear, however, whether the effects of blue light extend beyond simple alertness processes to also enhance other aspects of cognition, such as memory performance. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of a thirty minute pulse of blue light versus placebo (amber light) exposure in healthy normally rested individuals in the morning during verbal memory consolidation (i.e., 1.5 hours after memory acquisition) using an abbreviated version of the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT-II). At delayed recall, individuals who received blue light (n = 12) during the consolidation period showed significantly better long-delay verbal recall than individuals who received amber light exposure (n = 18), while controlling for the effects of general intelligence, depressive symptoms and habitual wake time. These findings extend previous work demonstrating the effect of blue light on brain activation and alertness to further demonstrate its effectiveness at facilitating better memory consolidation and subsequent retention of verbal material. Although preliminary, these findings point to a potential application of blue wavelength light to optimize memory performance in healthy populations. It remains to be determined whether blue light exposure may also enhance performance in clinical populations with memory deficits.

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Alkozei, A., Smith, R., Dailey, N. S., Bajaj, S., & Killgore, W. D. S. (2017). Acute exposure to blue wavelength light during memory consolidation improves verbal memory performance. PLoS ONE, 12(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184884

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