Valkee 2 Bright Light Headset: The Science and Research

Valkee designers had the goal of creating a headset with ear-buds that rest and stay comfortably inside a variety of ear types better than any other in-ear headset in the market, while providing the optimal light exposure through custom LEDs. The result is a breakthrough for in-ear headsets. It’s called the LedSet®.

The Valkee 2 Bright Light Headset supplements sunlight and its natural, positive effects. It channels light through the ear canal to photosensitive regions of the brain, which has an uplifting effect on your mood, energy level and cognitive performance.

Why is exposure to enough light so vital to our wellbeing?

Our daily life and wellbeing is synchronized to the 24h solar day. The organ that keeps us synchronized is called the biological clock and it’s located in the hypothalamus in our brain.

Light is the strongest signal that keeps our biological clock synchronized. If we don’t get enough light during the day or at the wrong time of the day, e.g. during shift-work or jet-lag, the biological clock can go out of sync and the production of hormones that affect our sleep and wellbeing, such as melatonin, serotonin and dopamine, can be disturbed. This can have a negative effect on how we feel and function during the day and how we sleep during the night.

The core photosensitive brain areas and their functions

Figure 1: The core photosensitive brain areas and their functions

How does our biological clock sense light?

The light information is received via light-sensitive receptors in the retina called opsins. The receptors convert the photic energy into electrical potential in neurons and directly project to the biological as well as to other brain areas. This increases signalling and influences hormone production (e.g. melatonin, serotonin and dopamine).

The light-sensitive receptors are not only found in the retina but also in multiple locations in the brain, for instance in the cerebellum and the hypothalamus [Starck et al, 2012; Nissilä et al, 2011& 2012].

Why administer light through the ear canal?

The ear canal is a very convenient passageway to reach the photosensitive brain tissue. The light only needs to travel a short distance to reach for instance the light sensitive receptors in the cerebellum.

The light passes through the transparent eardrum and the thin bone structure and activates the neural networks of the brain [Abou-Elseoud et al., 2011; Starck et al., 2012].

Anatomy of ear and mechanism how light activates the brain

Figure 2: anatomy of ear and mechanism how light activates the brain

Key research findings and scientific evidence

BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE: How can light through the ear activate the brain?

Light sensitive receptors have been found in multiple locations in the human and animal brain besides the retina (Nissilä et al., 2011, Nissilä et al., 2012,)

Study 1: Human post-mortem brain and peripheral tissue (N=10) was analyzed for the presence of OPN3 and OPN4 with Western blotting. Results showed the presence of OPN3 and OP4 at 18 different sites of the human brain and peripheral tissue, indicating a potential light-sensitivity of the brain.

18 brain locations where light-sensitive opsins where found in the human brain and opsin expression in the human hypothalamus

Figure 3: 18 brain locations where light-sensitive opsins where found in the human brain (modified from Nissilä et al.,2012)
Figure 4: Opsin expression in the human hypothalamus (modified from Nissilä et al., 2012).

BRAIN IMAGING EVIDENCE: How does light through the ear activate the brain?

Study 2: 50 healthy subjects were randomized into two groups (N=24 light group; N=26 sham, placebo control group) of which one received 12 min of light in the ear, whereas the other one received no light (sham), meanwhile a fMRI scan of their brain activity was conducted.

Results showed a significant increased activation of the visual cortex as well as sensor-motor areas in the light group compared to the sham group, which suggests a general light sensitivity of the brain (modified from Starck et al., 2012, World Journal of Neuroscience 2:81-90).

Stimulus set-up (left) and position of light source in the ear canal

Figure 5: Stimulus set-up (left) and position of light source in the ear canal

Lateral visual network

Figure 6: Lateral visual network (warm colours) and greater functional connectivity in the light stimulus group.

CLINICAL EVIDENCE: What are the benefits of light in the ear?

One might argue that only because the light activates the brain, it does not necessarily mean that it benefits our health. This is why the actual benefits have been studied in controlled human trials.

Study 3: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized by the recurrence of depressive symptoms during the winter months. In a 4 week trial, 89 patients suffering from SAD were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups and received either a low (1 lumen), medium (4 lumen), or high dose (9 lumen) of daily bright light in the ear for 12 minutes in the morning. Depressive symptoms and cognitive performance were assessed using standard psychiatric instruments such as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Trial Making Test (TMT) at the beginning, during, and at the end of the trial. Results showed a significant reduction of depressive symptoms (74-79%) according to the BDI in all three treatment groups as well as a significant improvement of cognitive performance compared to baseline (modified from Jurvelin et al., submitted). The result is comparable with traditional bright light lamp studies.

Reduction in Depressive symptoms according to BDI.

Figure 7: Reduction in Depressive symptoms according to BDI. Values above 7 indicate depression, values below 7 indicate a normal level of symptoms.

CONSUMER SATISFACTION: What do Valkee customers say?

87% of users recommend Valkee (Apex Healthcare Research, Feb 2013. N=100)


1. Abou-Elseoud A, Littow H, Remes J, Starck T, Nikkinen J, Nissilä J, Timonen M, Tervonen O, Kiviniemi V. Group-ICA model order highlights patterns of functional brain connectivity. Front Syst Neurosci 2011;5(37):1-17.

2. Jurvelin H, Takala T, Nissilä J, Timonen M, Jokelainen J, Räsänen P. Transcranial bright light treatment via ear canals in seasonal affective disorder: a randomized controlled double-blind dose-response study. Poster presentation at International Forum on Mood and Anxiety Disorders (IFMAD) 9.-11.2011, Budapest , Hungary. Manuscript submitted.

3. Nissilä J, Mänttäri S, Särkioja T, Tuominen H, Takala T, Timonen M, Saarela S.
J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2012 Nov;198(11):833-9

4. Nissila J, Mänttäri S, Tuominen H, Särkioja T, Takala T, Timonen M, Saarela S. The abundance and distribution of melanopsin (OPN4) protein in the human brain. Poster presentation in the 20th European Congress of Psychiatry (EPA), Prague, Czech Republic, 3-6 March, 2012.

5. Nissila J, Mänttäri S, Tuominen H, Särkioja T, Takala T, Timonen M, Saarela S. The abundance and distribution of encephalopsin (OPN3) protein in the human brain. Acta Physiol 2012,206(S691). Poster presentation in Society Scandinavian Physiological Society (SPS) 24.- 26.8.2012 in Helsinki, Finland.

6. Starck T, Nissilä J, Aunio A, Abou-Elseoud A, Remes J, Nikkinen J, Timonen M, Takala T, Tervonen O, Kiviniemi V. Stimulating brain tissue with bright light alters functional connectivity in brain at the resting state. World Journal of Neuroscience 2012;2:81-90.

Full Spectrum Lighting FAQ

Full Spectrum Light Chart

As experts in Therapy Lamps and Full Spectrum Lighting, we receive many questions about the technical details on the lighting products we offer. To help you better understand some of these terms, we’ve put together this FAQ and we hope you find this useful when shopping for a light solution this season.

What is a LUX?

LUX is simply one lumen per square meter and is a measure of visible light over an area. While lumens measure the visible light output of a source, LUX actually quantifies the level of visible light in an area. A higher LUX means you will require less exposure time for therapeutic results. For those who are particularly light-sensitive, you can get the minimum dosage of light using a 2,500 LUX system such as the Verilux HappyLight 2500 for an average of two hours per day.

What is a Lumen?

Lumen is the SI unit of luminous flux. This measures the amount of visible light emitted by a source. While lumens measure the amount of light produced by a light source, more lumens do not necessarily equate to a brighter environment. To measure that, refer to LUX.

What is Full Spectrum lighting?

Full Spectrum lighting, also known as Natural Spectrum, is light that covers the electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to near-ultraviolet, or all wavelengths that are useful to plant or animal life. “Full-spectrum” bulbs produce bright light similar in color composition to natural daylight.

How does light therapy affect mood

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter or neuropeptide, is high when we feel good and are relaxed, positive, focused, and have less pain. Melatonin, which helps us sleep, is produced by the brain’s pineal gland when we’re in the dark or dim light. Bright light, specifically blue wavelengths, switches melatonin to serotonin. Full spectrum light helps us wake up and be more alert and yet calm.

What is CRI?

CRI stands for the Color Rendering Index, which is a measure of a light source’s ability to reproduce color in comparison to a natural light source (typically compared to daylight).The higher the CRI, the more vivid things appear to us and your eyes work far less yet you see much clearer. The sun is 100 CRI while the best man-made lights range in the 90s.

What is Color Temperature?

Measured in Kelvins (K), color temperature compares the color of light produced by artificial means to that of natural daylight. Daylight has a Kelvin measure of approximately 5780K.

What is UVC light?

UVC is filtered out by the ozone layer and does not normally reach the surface of the planet. UVC is harmful to living cells, and is used to limit microorganism growth in hospitals, food processing facilities, water treatment and HVAC systems. We offer a selection of UVC Light Sanitizers from Verilux.

Light and its Affect on our Internal Clock

Light is the most important external cue to synchronize our internal body clocks, and the lack of light can have severe negative effects on our sleep patterns. Even a well-lit workplace exposes us to no more than 100 Lux, which translates to 1,200 Lux-hours over the course of a 12-hour workday. Meanwhile, on a cloudy day, the intensity of outside light is about 120,000 Lux, which means even a short 20-minute walk outdoors would expose us to 40,000 Lux-hours, or more than thirty-fold the exposure of that entire indoor workday.

With the use of any of our Therapy Lamps, you can substitute missing daylight during the cold, dark winter months. Not only will these help to enhance your energy and mood, they can also assist you in regulating your body’s circadian rhythm during seasonal changes, time change, and even travelling to different time zones.

helmet cam

Be sure to check this article for more information about our internal body clock:

Internal Time: The Science of Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired


What is Light Therapy?

helmet cam

Light therapy was the first treatment used to treat the first patient of SAD, and to this day a better one has yet to be found. Over the years, better kinds of light and better ways of getting the light absorbed by SAD patients have been developed, but the light box continues to be the greatest innovation in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder.

HenryWard Beecher once commented,“I think you might dispense with half your doctors if you would only consult Dr. Sun more.” Perhaps sunlight can’t replace so much as half the doctors, but certainly sunlight, and man-made light, have been shown to treat everything from skin disorders to depression. Several kinds of depression outside SAD have shown good responses to regular light exposure, including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression.

Light therapy has also been used repeatedly to help with sleep disorders. It has also helped people who suffer insomnia and sleep troubles as a result of working late- night shifts, and even for jet lag!

As you can see, sunlight is a powerful tool in fighting both depression and sleep problems, and as the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder contain elements of both, it’s small wonder that light therapy has done so much for people who have seasonal problems.

Though light therapy is very simple to administer, there are some basic guidelines to follow in order to get the most out of it.There are also a few precautions to take. Some light sources, for example, can be harmful to your eyes or skin, so it’s best to go with a quality light box specifically designed for light therapy treatment.

Questions or comments? Please leave them below.

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