Shedding Light on the Infrared: An Argument for Infrared Radiation Therapy as a Supplemental Treatment Strategy for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Murphy, Justin [Browse]
Senior thesis
73 pages


Sugarman, Susan [Browse]
Jacobs, Barry [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a pattern specifier of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) that affects up to 10% of the population in certain regions of the United States. At present, the dominant treatment option for SAD patients is light therapy. The present work reviews the mechanisms of light therapy and suggests the utility of infrared radiation (IR) therapy as an alternative, supplementary treatment option for SAD patients. In “Part 1” of the work, we examine the neurochemical and behavioral profile of Depression and SAD, investigate the hypotheses concerning the etiology of MDD and SAD, review the established mechanism of action for light therapy as a treatment for SAD, and provide empirical evidence in favor of IR therapy as a treatment option for SAD. In “Part 2,” we broaden the scope of our argument, as we provide data concerning the influence of weather patterns on human mood and behavior and deliberate on the concept of seasonality. Within the framework of seasonality, we further probe at the etiology of SAD by reviewing empirical evidence in favor of the sunshine deficit hypothesis and present data from our own field experiment testing the effect of IR on individuals’ feelings of mood. In line with the sunshine deficit hypothesis, we argue that light therapies for SAD should better mimic sunlight by incorporating an IR component, for such a dual-treatment approach could maximize the individual benefits of both visible light and IR while simultaneously reducing the necessary dosage of each individual component.

Supplementary Information