Behind Valkee: The Profitable Startup That Shines Lights Into Your Ears To Cure The Winter Blues | TechCrunch

We had a look at the Valkee earlier on the blog. I just bring it up again because it’s interesting that TechCrunch is covering it and pointing out its ‘successful startup’ aspect. I can’t imagine a DIY version of this could cost more than a few dollars.

“I told him you don’t need to your light your house. You need to light your brain,” Nissila said. The ear canal was the most natural and obvious way to shine light onto the surface of the brain. Within weeks, they had a prototype.

Called The Valkee, the device looks like an MP3 player with a set of fancy headphones attached to it. The earbuds actually have a pair of lights attached to them that run for 12-minute sessions at a time. The idea is that by shining light into sensitive areas of the brain, it will stimulate a special OPN3 protein in parts of the brain that help regulate serotonin, melatonin and dopamine production.

They’re initially marketing it to people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but they’re planning to expand their consumer base to people who need to fight off jet lag.

“If I stop using it for one week, I start eating more and it becomes very difficult to wake up in the morning,” said Timo Ahopelto, who was CEO of the company before leaving to join early-stage Finnish VC fund Lifeline Ventures, which also holds a stake in Valkee. I’ve used it, and I can’t tell if there is any effect yet beyond making my ears feel warm in the morning. But I’m also Californian, so I’m not even really sure I suffer from seasonal affective disorder because we don’t really have seasons.

via Behind Valkee: The Profitable Startup That Shines Lights Into Your Ears To Cure The Winter Blues | TechCrunch.

Valkee – Transcranial Bright Light Therapy

I discovered the Valkee today through a new press release (8/28/12) but it’s been around for some time now [lengthy rather amusing Slashdot thread from Aug. 2011].

Bright light therapy has been shown to be an effective cure for seasonal depression. New Finnish research reveals that bright light therapy, when administered through the ear canal directly to the photosensitive brain tissue, offers benefits for those not suffering from seasonal depression at all, as it improves the cognitive performance and mood of the healthy, too.

The new studies are linked to on the Valkee Evidence page.
Previous studies have shown Transcranial Bright Light Therapy to be effective in treating Seasonal Depression Disorder (SAD) but in a new study, Finnish hockey players improved their ‘motoric reaction speed’.
See Also: Stimulating brain tissue with bright light alters functional connectivity in brain at the resting state

Valkee seems to be targeted towards travelers anticipating jet lag, or those in Northern climates where winter exposure to light is limited. But the Valkee Benefits page mentions everything from PMS to ‘reduced carbohydrate cravings’.
“Valkee has CE Class II(a) medical device certification and is clinically tested.”
“Valkee currently does not ship into the US, but we will soon!” And you can sign up to be notified.Valkee Transcranial Bright Light Device

Valkee

Photo links to more Valkee marketing material.