Looking at Orange Light Is Like Drinking a Cup of Coffee

Light is an incredibly powerful force. Sure, it helps us see and gives us fast internet, but medical researchers keep stumbling upon new positive side-effects. A team of Belgian scientists, for instance, just discovered how a ten minute blast of orange light increases brain activity related to cognition and alertness.

In other words, looking at orange light is a bit like drinking a cup of coffee, albeit not as fast-acting. The orange light directly affects the photoreceptors in the eyeball that control the production of melanopsin, which scientists believe controls your body's circadian rhythm. To learn more about the specific role of melanopsin in waking up the brain, the Belgian team gave 16 people a ten-minute-long blast of blue or orange light before giving them a memory test inside an MRI machine. They then blindfolded them for 70 minutes and tested them again under green light.

Remarkably, the orange light made a big difference in brain activity. The scientists believe that, because orange light has a longer wavelength, it makes the melanopsin more light sensitive, and this enhances the brain's response. Buoyed by the evidence that melanopsin has cognitive effects, the team says we should look more closely at things like lighting in schools. A different color lamp might help students learn better! And that's just by looking at the light. You'd be amazed by what happens when you start blasting the light directly into the brain. [New Scientist]