Lights and brain cells

Researchers have long been trying to discover the mysteries of the brain, as well as target areas within to control behaviors. Optogenetics might be a relatively unknown area of neuroscience. Researchers inject tiny LEDs into the brain to control behavior article tells that for almost 15 years, scientists have been experimenting with optogenetics, a new way of studying the brain that uses light to control precise neural activity in freely moving animals. The challenge has been delivering light to exact regions deep in the brain. Researchers develop ‘wireless optical brain router’ to manipulate brain cells article tells that Kendall Research has created wireless prototypes that weigh just three grams (0.11 ounces) that can controls LEDs that can can be attached to the rodents: Tiny Injectable LEDs Manipulate the Brain With Light. Tiny Wireless LED Implant Can Activate Reward Centers in the Brain.

There has been also news on the effect of light to human brain. It is known that sitting near suitable bright light can be beneficial to people who live in areas where there is very little sunlight on winter. Finnish company Valkee says that the light does not need to go o eyes to have the same effect because human brains have some photosensitive parts, and they say they have scientific evidence for that. Valkee has been making some time special “headphones” that send light to human brains through ears. VALKEE Bright Light Headset sends photosensitive regions of the brain through the ear canal. There has been some discussion on are those really effective or not.

If you think that the products from Valkee are two expensive (around 200 euros) and looking for a cheaper DIY approach (how they can be so expensive when you just need two LEDs in ears), then take a look at article Valokkeet. It tells you how you can build your own light headphones from two LEDs and old headphones (for just few euros). At the moment Valokkeet article seems to be available only in Finnish, but you can always use Google translate to get English translation.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Valkee has now received a total of approximately 7.6 million capital investment.

    The risk of investments in addition to Valkee has received one million euros in funding from Tekes. Valkee owners there are, inter alia, a former Nokia Anssi Vanjoki, Lifeline Ventures business accelerator, and an internationally renowned angel investor Esther Dyson.

    Valkeen replaced the light power is based on the company’s claims that the human brain would react to the ear canal via the incoming light. This makes it easier for seasonal affective disorder symptoms.

    Valkee is funding round in the year ending in February revealed the figures, but the unit sales increased by 10 000 pieces 25 000 pieces. Performance of a company is still loss-making.


  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Optogenetics: Light Up Your Brain

    Optogenetics is the science of controlling individual cells in living tissue with light. LEDs are enabling rapid advances in the field.

    The word for the day is “optogenetics.” This is yet one more scientific field that did not even exist in the last century. It is a branch of neuroscience that relies on genetically programmed molecules to stimulate neural pathways in the brain. Researchers have studied brain function for decades using electrical or chemical stimulation, but these methods affect large areas of the brain at the same time, making it impossible to isolate the reactions of specific neurons.

    The molecules used in optogenetics research can activate or turn off individual neurons by exposure to light. All that is needed is a tiny source of light that can illuminate the target area of the subject animal’s brain. (Laboratory rats are typically used for this research.)

    The molecules used by Rogers and his colleagues in their experiments release dopamine when exposed to light, creating a pleasurable sensation in the test animal.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Riivittävänä Valkee korvavalo 2, – toimimaton laite uusissa kuorissa ja uusilla käyttöohjeilla

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Valkee ear light: Swiss university’s research reveals that the illumination of the ear canal is inefficient

    Valkee Ltd claims that their ear light is effective against seasonal affective disorder and provide energy. Power of the machine can be demonstrated research, which includes placebo control eliminate. Valkee has been one of the studies, which included a placebo control. Since the results of the placebo was more effective than ear signaling device, Valkee Ltd removed the results of the placebo. For this reason, the results could not be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

    Through the eye of a bright light, melatonin reduced the rise, but through the ear of a bright light and lumevalo did not result in changes. Subjective fatigue rate decreased immediately after only a short exposure through the eye of the bright light.

    Valkee korvavalo: Sveitsin yliopiston tutkimus paljastaa, että korvakäytävän valaiseminen on tehotonta

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Chronobiol Int. 2013 Nov 13. [Epub ahead of print]
    Extraocular light via the ear canal does not acutely affect human circadian physiology, alertness and psychomotor vigilance performance.

    We conclude that extraocular transcranial light exposure in the late evening does not suppress melatonin, reduce subjective sleepiness or improve performance, and therefore, does not acutely influence the human circadian timing system.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Light therapy may help – double-blind study provide support for bright light headset

    Bright light headset, such as seasonal affective disorder alleviation Valkee manufacturer of Oulu, says it has received a research confirm that the devices may be of some help.

    The company says in a statement that it has received new promising research results of the ear canal through the subsequent bright light treatment. The company says in Oulu of the major findings of the study today in Monaco, starting IFMAD international conference (the International Forum on Mood and Anxiety).

    Oulu study contained the company, a statistically significant, positive bright light direct effect of relieving anxiety symptoms. Similarly, the placebo-control group receiving the symptoms did not change significantly.

    Double-blind study was carried out in laboratory conditions

    Treatment group received a daily 12-minute dose of light therapy for sight-protected Valkee bright light headset. The control group used the same proof headphones the same time every day, but did not get the light.


  7. Tomi says:

    Tekniikka&Talous magazine 13.12.2013 article
    “Valkee taistelee huuhaa-puheita vastaan” says:

    Valkee device pushes 10 000 lux to ear.

    Eight minutes of light per day keeps the patients in good condition on dark part of year (works for 75-92% of tested people). Light treatment increased reaction speed of ice hockey players by 20 percent.

    Valkee has sold 50 000 light treatment devices in three years.

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Web page says:

    The Valkee swindle is a health fraud scam from Finland. The company Valkee Oy sells a simple set of two LED earplugs, a timer and a rechargeable battery for EUR200. They claim that this “light headset” cures a multitude of symptoms and diseases, like migraine, jet lag, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), in nearly all cases.

    Other scams of this kind, like magnet therapy or zappers, simply claim to have wonder effects.

    he company, posing as a health tech start-up, attracted private investors, and considerable amounts of money got burned.

    On the other hand, the Valkee case is also exceptional because studies showed that the device does not work. As per April 2014, inefficacy was demonstrated for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and an effect in jet lag has been ruled out. Other negative trials show that Valkee’s earlight does not influence cognitive performance, blood pressure, and melatonin levels, indicating inefficacy on the internal clock.

    The swindle was busted in 2012 in Finland, and it took two more years until Valkee’s pseudoscience was finally turned down. Having lost their home market, Valkee is trying elsewhere to trick people into buying this expensive toy.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Still, no proof for the claimed effects was published. No peer-reviewed publication of Valkee’s earlight efficacy studies is existing, meaning that no independent 3rd party has ever accepted the earlight research as quality science.

    The University of Oulu has never confirmed to have been involved. It has removed stuff linking it to Valkee from it’s website after the scam was busted. All information regarding the earlight studies is coming from Valkee.


  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nearly all newspapers and journals, having hailed the “finnish innovation” before one or another way, remained silent from this point on.

    While Valkee’s sales in Finland crashed, and the company hovered again on the verge of ruin


  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Valkee Earlights – When Aggressive Marketing and Start-Up Mentality Overrode Science
    July 12, 2014 by Janos

    The Finnish company Valkee that makes led-powered light earplugs they claim treats Seasonal Affective Disorder is in financial trouble, and I can’t say that I’m sad. I’ve been meaning to blog about them for a while, but yesterday something happened that nudged me over to make the keyboard clack on my summer holiday. So, what do I have against Finnish innovation and a potential relief for a serious ailment?

    Valkee is a company that’s been in the headlines in the last few years in Finland. A start-up from the north, they came up with a rather sexy looking device they claimed treats Seasonal Affective Disorder, gives you more energy etc.

    Valkee earlights came to the market in 2010 but the sales weren’t stellar. The problem was, they lacked any shred of credible basic research that their product actually worked. This minor handicap was offset by aggressive marketing and PR campaign and the sales went up during the next year, with some sort of activity that looked like research going on in the background. In 2012 a whistleblower tipped the media, there was an exposé and the questionable scientific practices around the product came to light.

    So, internet sceptics, scientifically literate journalists and an international panel of 32 scientific experts agree that Valkee’s science appears sub-par – I think it is now pretty well established. These things happen, sometimes science doesn’t pan out, so what’s the problem? Well, now we’ll get to what’s my problem with the whole thing.

    Having no science or proof to back them up Valkee took a 10€ worth of components and sold them for 200€ with claims of efficacy for Seasonal Affective Disorder, with aggressive marketing and PR.

    S.A.D is no joke.

    Yet, I’m finding it hard to call this an outright hoax. Never ascribe malice to where ignorance or incompetence can explain things better. For a long time Valkee has looked like it was a scientifically failed product that got taken over by Proactive Start-Up People who really don’t get it that (medical) research done right is not a Scrum sprint, it’s a marathon. User stories don’t mean shit unless they’re backed up with studies and clinical trials.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Brains oc mice can be manipulated with light using some tricks:

    Lasers Switch Bad Memories to Good in Mice

    Researchers have discovered a way to use a laser to manipulate memories in mice. In experiments reported today in Nature, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that they could change the emotions associated with a memory from negative to positive and vice versa. The researchers relied on optogenetics, a sophisticated genetic tool that uses a laser to control neurons that have been sensitized to light.

    Optogenetic techniques have been used experimentally for more than a decade to control animal behavior and map neuronal networks,

    The technique involves injecting into the brain a virus that contains genetic constructs that sensitize neurons to light, and then manipulating the neurons using a laser that delivers light via optical fibers.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A good article on rise and fall of Valkee in Ylioppilaslehti (written in Finnish):

    Tulkoon valkeus

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    See-Through Sensors for Better Brain Implants

    Brain scientists first discovered how to use light to remotely control genetically-modified brain cells about a decade ago—a breakthrough that has enabled new scientific studies of depression, addiction and Parkinson’s disease. Now a new generation of transparent brain sensors could record brain cell responses without blocking the light’s access to the underlying brain tissue.

    The brain control technique that seems to hearken from science fiction, called optogenetics, has traditionally relied on metallic sensors sitting on the surface of the brain to record the organ’s responses to the light stimulation.

    “A traditional implant looks like a square of dots, and you can’t see anything under it,”

    The new device mainly consists of four layers of graphene—each layer just one atom thick—sandwiched between two layers of moisture-proof polymer.

    A thin graphene arrangement allowed more than 90 percent of light—from the ultraviolet to infrared—to pass through. By comparison, sensors made from indium-tin oxide allowed 80 percent of light through; traditional sensors made from thin metallic materials allowed just 60 percent . Researchers tested the brain devices by surgically implanting them in lab rats and mice.

    Such transparency should give a boost to optogenetics studies, which have already shown a remarkable ability to control the brain. One of the latest studies looked at using lasers to transform bad memories into good memories in mice.

    See-through sensors open new window into the brain

    A blue light shines through a clear implantable medical sensor onto a brain model. See-through sensors, which have been developed by a team of UW-Madison engineers, should help neural researchers better view brain activity.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Ear light gadget called “scam against sick people”

    A Finnish company selling a device it says will treat Seasonal Affective Disorder is being accused of shady publishing practices, poor research design, and data manipulation – all in a push to get its product on the market.

    For €199, Valkee Bright Light Headsets – iPod-like devices that shine LED light into the ear canal – promise to “banish winter depression,” which affects some people living in higher latitudes due to the short winter days. The product purports to treat jet lag and even improve attention and sports performance.

    While light (through the eyes) has indeed been shown to be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), critics say the company is taking advantage of sick people desperate for relief and fudging the results of the scientific studies they conducted in order to bolster the credibility of the product.

    “It was very big in the media here [in Finland],” he says. “It was in the evening news.”

    Valkee filed its first patent in 2008, but didn’t investigate the therapeutic usefulness of light delivered through the ears until 2010. It sold its first unit a month later.

    “They got their patent, then they needed a market,” says Dr. Timo Partonen, a medical doctor and research professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland. “When the product was already on the market, they started the studies.”

    The company secured its Class IIa Medical Device statusin 2010, meaning that it is not harmful (although not necessarily effective), and the media campaigns began.

    Valkee has a splashy website featuring easy-to-read “science facts” touting the effectiveness of the gadget. It has sold over 60,000 of the headsets to date, and sales are growing around the world as days shorten in northern countries like Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, Germany and elsewhere.

    Sales have reportedly crashed in Finland, however, following media investigations into the product’s claims.

    The evidence for the “science facts” listed on the Valkee website range from solid studies showing protein responses to light to questionable or even manipulated data.

    Some of the boldest claims are published in journals with less than sterling reputations

    On October 21, 2014, BMC Psychiatry published a peer-reviewed study supporting Valkee’s claim that the device treats SAD. It was a study of how different amounts of light shone into the ears can ease the depression and anxiety symptoms.

    Throughout the four-week trial, symptoms decreased significantly across the board for all participants.

    But that across-the-board improvement is where the problem lies.

    “The authors made a change… [after] they had analyzed the data and knew the results,” explains Partonen. “They deleted the placebo comparator from the study design.”

    The issue is the study was originally conducted as a double-blind placebo-controlled study

    But after the results had come back and shown that the actual treatment was no different than the placebo, the results were written up as though the study was conducted differently.

    Teasing out the placebo effect from the actual therapeutic value of the lights has been neglected in every published study.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Valkee Ltd vs. Shutdown Attempt, Legal Action Fails

    The finnish earlight seller Valkee Ltd. sent forth lawyers and tried to misuse police force in a failed attempt to silence this website, which is criticizing the company’s practices. The prosecution was stopped now by the officials, declaring there has been no wrongdoing.

    The full document set is not yet available to the public, because it may still be sealed by the authorities. tries to get the scans as soon as they become available.

    Valkee Ltd demanded to close this website within weeks of its establishment in late 2012. Until then, the critical view on the once-applauded, self-declared startup firm had less than 50 visitors.

    They did not demand factual corrections. Instead, the earlight firm made clear that this website had to disappear before it could be noticed by the general public.

    The successive additions to during 2013 coincided with Valkee’s problems after reports by a now-critical mainstream press, and the widely recognized 2012 FlimFlam award. Social media picked up the Valkee story in August 2013, overshadowing the launch of the Valkee 2 device. The company had a defensive reply attached to its most important campaign in years. A catastrophic event in marketing terms, followed by the even more devastating independent trial countering their 2013 Christmas campaign. Something had to be done.

    A Valkee representant made a complaint to the finnish police in January 2014. was said to cause massive damage to the company. The person they made responsible should be punished, and convicted to pay compensation.

    In May 2014, a renewed complaint came in. Valkee saw this site as a vital threat to its operations and shareholders. It urged the officers to act immediately, because now a twitter account EarLightSwindle existed, making the information available to an even bigger audience.

    Finnish libel law only covers insults against persons. It rules out punishment for criticism made about one’s business, or science. But there is a foxhole: If the criticism is too sharp, and may directly harm a specific person, it leads to prosecution.

    The criticism on this site is extreme, and the things told here are likely to hurt persons involved. Yet, it had to be false and mendacious. The truth cannot be unlawful.

    Valkee Ltd has sold, or is selling, the earlight devices for
    It has no accepted evidence for any of those claims. It has only an approval for SAD. So Valkee is per definitionem a scam, or health fraud, or however one may call this. Practically, and in legal terms.

    After one year, the officers working on the case and the prosecutor made the decision to end the investigation, because it is highly unlikely to lead to a conviction under these circumstances. There has be no wrongdoing.

    The important message is, that here is no slander, no lies, no defamation. Don’t expect Valkee to accept that.

    I never told about these Valkee activities before, though I know that “the Internet” hates such commercial censorship. I was just so fed up with the evil.

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Beginning

    In 2006 Nokia engineer Antti Aunio and biologist Juuso Nissilä applied for a Finnish patent for a device consisting of ear-plugs that could deliver LED light into the ear canals, and a small controller box. 1 According to Nissilä, the product idea was possibly born as early as 2005

    In spring 2007, their company Valkee Ltd. was founded to further develop (industry speak for to market) the device.

    They convinced Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia’s no.2, and later some venture capitalists, to invest into the start-up

    It was easy, however, to obtain authority approval for their ”medical device”, which is available in Europe for useless or even potentially dangerous things.

    The launch of the ”light headset” in 2010 was accompanied by an intense PR campaign, the most notable event being the INNOSUOMI award presented by the Finnish President Tarja Halonen, acquired by Valkee with false claims. 6 The story of the innovative young firm from the north, promising help for the many sufferers of Finlands national disease, Seasonal Affective Disorder, hit the media like a bombshell. A profitable business with world-wide markets was exactly what the nation needed and wanted, at the time of Nokia’s spectacular downturn which left thousands unemployed and the Finnish state whithout it’s most important taxpayer.

    At this point, Valkee could only cite a small unpublished open study.

    Christmas however, did not bring great sales for Valkee
    In spring 2011, they were also scientifically bancrupt

    Nobody stood up to destroy the illusion, when Valkee announced dubious ”scientific revolutions” in the press. The scam went unnoticed by the scientific community. Valkee provided just stuff that looked like science, enough to sell the fake story.

    The majority of the public although, remained sceptic, but critics were silenced when Valkee announced a positive randomized controlled study in November 2011, making it into the TV evening news. 12 The results were clumsily falsified

    The Scam is Busted

    Valkee, however, overdid the bad thing, and in February 2012 a whistleblower teamed up with two well-known finnish journalists, Renny Jokelin and Magnus Berglund (3-times Prix Europa nominee and famous for busting the Patria scandal). They made a piece for MOT, a TV program

    It effectively ended Valkee’s media misuse overnight. The next day, Nissilä confirmed the key facts from MOT in a radio interview, but still claimed to have made a scientific revolution

    Valkee tricked at least some 10.000 people into buying this expensive toy. Their markets are now the UK, Germany, even Japan.

    There is still not a single peer-reviewed article supporting this “innovation”, and strong evidence against it.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Optogenetics: Controlling the brain with light

    This animation illustrates optogenetics — a radical new technology for controlling brain activity with light.

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    With a Better Optogenetic Light Switch, Scientists Can Flip Neurons On and Off

    Optogenetics is a marvel of our age, enabling neuroscientists to turn brain cells on and off with pulses of light. But until now there’s been an obvious difficulty: How do you deliver that light to brain cells that are tucked inside an animal’s skull?

    Today we get the best answer yet, from the Stanford lab of Ada Poon. She and her colleagues have invented a tiny, wireless LED device that can be fully implanted beneath the skin of a mouse. The device lets researchers turn on the light and stimulate neurons when the mouse is scampering around, behaving more or less normally. This system, described today in the journal Nature Methods, seems a big improvement over previous technology, which used wires or bulky head-mounted devices to activate the light switch.

    Here’s a quick optogenetics primer, in case you need it. The technique makes use of neurons that have been genetically altered to respond to light, often with the introduction of genes from a strain of green algae. Researchers can control which part of a mouse brain contains these light-sensitive neurons, and they can then study the function of that brain region by activating the neurons—essentially turning them on and off—while watching the animal’s behavior. Using this method, scientists can learn about basic brain anatomy or study dysfunctions seen in human diseases.

    The first optogenetics systems used fiber optic cables to deliver the light, which meant the mice had wires coming out of their heads and couldn’t move around much. Over the past five years, researchers have worked on wireless systems, in which a head-mounted device receives the signal to stimulate and triggers an implanted LED.

    The point of these experiments were not to hurt mice, of course, but to demonstrate that neuroscience has a cool new tool, and a new way to illuminate the mysteries of the brain.

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Optogenetics uses LEDs to turn on potential cures

    Targeting the treatment of chronic pain and other neurological disorders, the on-off switches of optogenetics are transforming neurosciences. So far used in lab animals such as mice, a wireless signal activates LEDs located near an animal’s spinal cord so that a blue light turns on genetically modified neurons, while a yellow light turns them off. This enables researchers to discover the brain paths involved in such conditions as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as well as depression.

    Inserting the LEDs near the spine of mice, however, is a bit different than in their human counterparts. The procedure involves the genetic engineering of neurons so that molecular switches that activate and deactivate cells can occur and an optical fiber would need to be placed in the brain to trigger the switches.

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Valkee Ltd collapses as predicted: All share capital lost

    The finnish trade register has just announced, that the HumanCharger manufacturer Valkee Ltd has lost all of its share capital. That means, that all of the company’s ressources are depleted, and new capital is not in sight – not even theoretically.

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Are There Optical Communication Channels in Our Brains?

    Neuroscientists have long observed biophotons produced in brain tissue. Nobody knows what these photons are for, but researchers are beginning to explore the possibilities.


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