For most people, winter is the gloomiest season of all. The cold weather, bare trees, and uniform blanket of snow provide little stimulation. In fact, there are some people who get clinically affected by winter. These people end up diagnosed with a certain depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as the “Winter Blues.” Developed as a venture project to aid people suffering from the disorder, Valkee, a Helsinki-based startup company, has developed a device that may alleviate depression by shining light on the brain through the ear canals.
It seems hard to believe that shining light into your ears can turn depressive moods around, but the fact has some sound scientific support. For one, through the ear canal is the easiest and less obtrusive way of shining light onto the brain. According to Valkee’s co-founder Juuso Nissila, there are light-sensitive proteins on the brain’s surface that control sleep and a special protein that manages serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine release.
The company developed The Valkee as an answer to the problems faced by the few with the “winter blues.” Resembling an MP3 player with headphones attached, the devices shine light through earbuds with for 12-minute sessions. The feedback from users remains varied. Some claim that it has helped their depression immensely, while others perceived no change in moods. Valkee has already done some clinical trials to test out their product. Though sample sizes are still small, there is an indication that The Valkee does have a positive effect in certain people. The company is also planning to expand its target market to include people who suffer from jet lag and even athletes. The overall to is complete reception of potential customers (it is also the reason why they don’t filter negative comments posted on their Facebook page).
The company has been steadily increasing its sales, going from 5,000 units in its debut year to a projected 50,000 units for the current edition of its product. The Helsinki-based company is currently working to gain permission to introduce its product into the U.S. market this year through a Series A venture round.