Light Therapy for Depression

Bright light therapy (BLT) is considered among the first-line treatments for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), yet a growing body of literature supports its use in other neuropsychiatric conditions including non-seasonal depression. Despite evidence of its antidepressant efficacy, clinical use of BLT remains highly variable internationally. In this article, we explore the autonomic effects of BLT and suggest that such effects may play a role in its antidepressant and chronotherapeutic properties. After providing a brief introduction on the clinical application of BLT, we review the chronobiological effects of BLT on depression and on the autonomic nervous system in depressed and non-depressed individuals with an emphasis on non-seasonal depression. Such a theory of autonomic modulation via BLT could serve to integrate aspects of recent work centered on alleviating allostatic load, the polyvagal theory, the neurovisceral integration model and emerging evidence on the roles of glutamate and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GABA).