Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Physiological and psychological response to colored light
by Honig, Larry Mark, Ph.D., Saybrook University, 2009, 117; 3369590
Abstract (Summary)

Colored light has been used as a treatment modality for physical and psychological conditions. A few studies have shown effects on cognitive processing, autonomic, and endocrine response as well as emotional and subjective experience. Responses follow a pattern of increased arousal with lower wavelengths (red vs. blue). Heart-rate variability provides a measure of parasympathetic and sympathetic autonomic nervous system function and has been used to measure mental stress, hypnosis, and emotional states and to study conditions including anxiety disorders, depression, anorexia, alcoholism, and PTSD.

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of red and blue colored light on the autonomic nervous system and on state anxiety. In addition, the relationship between response to color and the quality of absorption was examined.

Twenty male and female adults were exposed to 10 minutes of red and 10 minutes of blue light through the eyes. The participants were divided into 2 equal groups with the order of administration counterbalanced. The sessions consisted of 5 minutes of no color exposure before and after each of the 10 minute color exposure periods. Heart-rate variability, finger temperature, and respiration were measured. Anxiety was measured at baseline and after each color exposure using the short form of the Spielberger’s State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Marteau & Bekker, 1992). The Tellegen Absorption Scale (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974) was administered before the first 5-minute period. Data were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance and Mann-Whitney Tests to compare differences between the colors red and blue. Spearman Rank Order Correlations were used to test for linear relationships between psychophysiological response and anxiety and absorption.

Although results did not support the hypothesis that there would a difference in psychophysiological response between exposure to red or blue light, the small sample size and large variance among the observed measures are factors. Results indicated correlations between anxiety and psychophysiological response and significant increases in anxiety following exposure to red and significant decreases in anxiety following exposure to blue. It is suggested that future studies investigate the effects of a multisession clinical intervention with a patient population.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Achterberg, Jeanne
Commitee: Freeman, Lynn, Moss, Donald
School: Saybrook University
Department: Integrative Health Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Experimental psychology, Physiological psychology
Keywords: Anxiety, Colored light therapy, Complementary and alternative medicine, Heart rate variability, Phototherapy, Psychophysiology
Publication Number: 3369590
ISBN: 978-1-109-31922-4
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