For the last ten years Dr Duncan Anderson of The Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London, has been working with Photic Stimulation (pulsed light) as a treatment for migraine.
In the journal "Headache" he reported on a study of 50 migraine headaches: 49 were rated by the patients as being helped and 36 as being stopped by using light treatment. The light treatment shortened the migraine attacks in all the patients. And the average interval between successive migraine headaches increased in two cases which were followed for more than 18 months. For details, please see the journal reference for Anderson (1989) on the Scientific Studies page of this website.
A recent survey of migraine patients using Dr Anderson's light therapy found that between 43 and 55% of them reported that after the treatment, the frequency of their migraine attacks was "somewhat less" or "much less" (under a conservative interpretation of these categories). The highest percentage of success (55%) was reported by those whose migraine was preceded by some kind of warning signs (visual disturbances, numbness,tingling,etc). In view of the limited effectiveness of migraine preventive drugs and their undesirable side-effects, Photic Stimulation (Dr Anderson's light therapy) is clearly one of the most valuable preventive treatments for migraine. For details, please see the journal reference for Noton (2000) on the Scientific Studies page of this website.
Treatment with light not drugs
The treatment involves wearing a lightmask that covers the eyes for about 15 minutes per day. The lightmask contains miniature lights, one in front of each eye, which gently pulse in special pre-programmed rhythms. The lightmask is used every day, as a preventive, and also whenever a migraine attack starts, to stop the attack. The treatment is non-invasive and drug free.
Research into various disorders
Originally Dr Anderson developed the pulsed light treatment as a remedy for migraine. In the course of this work he discovered that it was also very effective for PMS. Additional studies are underway or planned to study the application of pulsed light in other areas where it is believed to be effective, such as insomnia and Attention Deficit Disorder. Dr Anderson's studies of pulsed light are the first to be conducted in the formal setting of a research hospital and are the first to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
How does it work?
Why should pulsed light shone into the eyes be such an effective treatment for PMS and migraine? Published research shows that during PMS, the body's internal daily clock becomes de-synchronised from the external rhythm of day and night. Dr Anderson's results suggest that daily use of the pulsed light helps the clock to re-synchronise. It re-establishes normal brain function in the visual cortex when used during migraine aura, thereby stopping activation of the trigeminovascular system (the cause of pain). It re-establishes normal function in the brain when used during warning signs for migraine without aura.
The Rio Lightmask
The Rio Lightmask is a low-cost device for pulsed light therapy (Photic Stimulation). Dr Anderson's pulsed light treatment has been developed into a small portable device suitable for home use. The Lightmask consists of a pulsed light unit mounted on a soft wrap-around headband. A separate control unit allows the user to select various programmes (for PMS, Migraine, Insomnia, Stress-relaxation, etc) and to adjust the brightness and pulse frequency of the light for maximum comfort. The Lightmask switches off automatically after 15 minutes, allowing it to be used when going to sleep.