Rensselaer Research Review Winter 2009-10
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Mariana Figueiro
Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., assistant professor  and program director at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center (LRC)
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First Field Study
Figueiro’s research, sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council and in part by a grant from a Trans-National Institutes of Health Genes, Environment and Health Initiative is the first field study to measure the impact of reduced morning blue light exposure on evening melatonin onset of teenagers attending school.

According to Figueiro, the results of this field study are significant because they validate controlled laboratory findings with actual field measurements of light that impact our biological system.

The larger study is examining not only the impact of removing morning blue light, but also the seasonal impact and the increased evening light exposure during the spring months on teens’ melatonin onset and sleep times. 

Implications for School Design
Throughout her research, Figueiro has repeatedly come face-to-face with the enormous concern of parents over teenagers going to bed too late. “Our findings pose two questions: “How will we promote exposure to morning light and how will we design schools differently?” says Figueiro.

The study findings should have significant implications for school design. “Delivering daylight in schools may be a simple, non-pharmacological treatment for students to help them increase sleep duration,” concludes Figueiro.

Light Therapy Can Reduce Health Risks of Shift Workers and Alzheimer’s Patients
The new research has applications for more than 3 million shift workers and Alzheimer’s patients who suffer from lack of a regular sleep pattern.

Studies have shown that this lack of synchronization between a shift worker’s rest and activity and light/dark patterns leads to a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, seasonal depression and cancer over decades.

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