A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

Fading Evidence

Posted by apgaylard on November 15, 2007

 I’ve been continuing to pursue the evidence base for Lightwave Stimulation (LWS) Therapy  (a.k.a Downing Technique, Lumatron therapy, Ocular light therapy, Photron therapy) as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) . 

It’s the therapy that a BBC ‘news’ item called “… the answer …” for “… many… ” SAD sufferers.

Now it turns out that the ‘expert’ who appeared on the BBC, Pauline Allen of the Sound Learning Centre, has no medical qualifications.  She does, however, run a private clinic that will sell LWS therapy to SAD sufferers for £60 an hour.

Given this level of confidence you might expect that there is some proper evidence to support these assertions?  Well, try as I might, I cannot find any.  If you can find some be sure to let me know!

My own trawl of the internet turned up just two papers from the Australian Journal of Holistic Nursing.  One was an un-refereed retrospective on colour therapies; the other a single case study.  They were both by the same author.  Not a trial between them.

So I thought that I’d ask the Sound Learning Centre what research evidence was available.  They sent me their Client Information Pack.  The only references it contained were for light therapies generally.  They were to just two books.

I try my best to be fair, so I bought one of them second hand: Light: Medicine of the Future (1991) by Dr Jacob Liberman.  It contains no references to LWS, or any of its aliases.

It does mention what it calls “… the treatment of choice for Seasonal Affective Disorder …” Dr  Liberman says this is: (full spectrum) ‘bright light’ treatment.  (pp 124-126)

The only other ‘treatment’ mentioned is the wearing of coloured glasses.

Now I must make it very clear that my quoting from Dr Liberman’s book does not represent any kind of endorsement.  It’s the sort of book that will boil the blood of a physicist.  It’s endorsed by quantum flap-doodle devotee Deepak Chopra, enough said.

So, I only have one candidate left as a source of evidence for this therapy:

Light Years Ahead: The Illustrated Guide to Full Spectrum and Colored Light in Mindbody Healing (1996) edited by Brian Breiling.

I have asked the Sound Learning Centre to confirm that this book does indeed provide evidence for the effectiveness of LWS in the treatment of SAD.  As yet, I’ve not had a reply.

It looks like we have yet another example of CAM practitioners being happy to sell treatments to sick people without any real evidence that they are effective.  This does not seem to be very ethical behaviour to me.

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4 Responses to “Fading Evidence”

  1. carenggg said

    Hello,

  2. carenggg said

    Hello, I know for certain that Lumatron and Photron therapy work. And I can confirm that it changed my life. Light therapy works for many things I am much more relaxed and think much clearer than before. My memory is better than ever and I am much more creative than I was before. It’s like the light set my mind into motion it woke up all of those dorment neurons and cells. Also it allowed for me to release some traum from childhood. This is the best invention ever. And if you say it didn’t work for you than you are either not aware of what it has done for you or you did it wrong.

    Sincerly,

    Carmen G.

  3. carenggg said

    Also, I forgot to mention that I now recognize patterns in things like math, biology or business. Many things have fundamental patterns and if you are highly intelegent you know this. Before I could not see the paterns right away either I never saw them at all or it took awhile to see. So there you have it. May the effects aren’t true for you, which I highly doubt, but for certain the effects are very positive for many other people. Before you put out erronious information you should do your research and not base information on your own ignorance or lack of awareness.

    sincerly,

    Carmen G.

  4. apgaylard said

    Hi Carmen,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    I’m glad that your experiences with this therapy have been positive.

    Unfortunately anecdotes like yours are interesting and perhaps the starting point for proper investigations, but are not sufficient justification for general clinical recommendations.

    You mention your ability with pattern recognition; this is a useful human trait. We look for patterns and meaning. A draw back is that we are disposed to see them where they may not really be. This is why for therapies to be generally recommended they need evidence that is, as far as possible, collected using methods that limit the effect of our inbuilt biases.

    This means studies that account for the Placebo effect, the Hawthorne effect and Confirmation bias, to mention just a few of the human frailties that limit our ability to make general inferences from our experiences.

    My point here is that this therapy has no such objective data to support its use specifically in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), rather than the nebulous ‘enhancements’ you describe. I’ve looked and the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit have looked too. So actually I have done my research (see here and in this piece as well).

    You accuse me of providing “erronious [sic] information” and of “ignorance or lack of awareness”. I would be interested to know what in this piece is in error?

    Before resorting to intemperate remarks of this kind I think that it’s only reasonable for you to offer me some real evidence. Please provide me with references to papers in high-quality peer-reviewed medical journals that show this therapy effective for SAD (or anything else) to back up your criticism before resorting to rudeness.

    If you find any, please be sure to test them against these standards; as I will.

    I also object to the way this therapy has been described as ‘working’ in the news coverage that I have commented on: it lacks physical plausibility.

    Finally, I do have a gripe with people who peddle these sorts of, putting it politely, highly speculative therapies when there are options available that do have some objective evidence in their favour (e.g. bright light therapy for SAD) and are cheaper; perhaps even free. (in the UK)

    When health advice comes with no evidence of efficacy and is physically implausible it’s time to be very cautious; especially when people wish to charge you for it.

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