Effect of light on agitation in institutionalized patients with severe Alzheimer disease

Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Jennifer L. Martin, Philip Gehrman, Tamar Shochat, Jody Corey-Bloom, Matthew Marler, Sarah Nolan, Leah Levi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Preliminary data suggest that morning bright light might improve symptoms of agitation, a serious problem in patients with dementia. The authors expand on an earlier pilot study by evaluating the effect of bright light therapy on agitated behavior in a large sample of patients with severe dementia. Methods: Ninety-two patients were randomly assigned to morning bright light, morning dim red light, or evening bright light. Agitation was rated by research staff who observed the patients every 15 minutes throughout the treatment period and by caregivers at one timepoint before and one time-point after treatment. Results: Morning bright light delayed the acrophase of the agitation rhythm by over 1.5 hours. Bright light was associated with improved caregivers' ratings but had little effect on observational ratings of agitation. Conclusion: Although the result that light shifted the peak of the agitated behavior might be generalizable to patients with milder forms of AD, the fact that agitation was not ameliorated might not be. Because the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of patients with severe AD is likely to be more degenerated, and the circadian activity rhythms deteriorate as the disease progresses, it is still possible that patients with more intact SCNs, that is, patients with mild or moderate AD, might benefit from light treatment even more than those with severe AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-203
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants NIA AG08415, NCI CA85264, NHLBI HL44915, HL36005; the Department of Veterans Affairs VISN-22 Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), the UCSD Cancer Center, Stein Institute for Research on Aging, and the Research Service of the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of light on agitation in institutionalized patients with severe Alzheimer disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this