Daniel Joyce, PhD; Michael Webster, PhD
University of Nevada, Reno
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Light is a powerful modifier of human behavior and drives the way that we feel, think, and act. However, in today’s society we don’t get enough light during the day while getting too much light at night, and this is compounded by degradation of the sensory pathways during aging. This results in dysregulated sleep and wake rhythms, exacerbating mental and physical illnesses. One solution is to harness the lightbulb to not only help us see better, but to help us feel better too. Scientific advances mean that we are now discovering and mapping the dedicated visual physiological pathways that drive wellbeing, coupling this with new LED lighting technology could allow us to craft lightscapes that support health too. This program of research will determine the potential for such technology to support aging, by developing lights specially tuned to drive these pathways and counteract the extensive sensory deficits that occur with aging, and measuring how reactions by the brain, body and mind are improved by these lights. In doing so, we will understand the best ways to target such pathways using nothing but light. Ultimately, we will repurpose the lightbulb as an extremely cheap tool that can support healthy ageing throughout the lifespan.