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Scientists study smart light’s effect on human health in Arctic

The studies will continue for five years

MOSCOW, March 18. /TASS/. Scientists of the Tomsk State Medical University (TSMU) will conduct first studies of how human centric lighting can change psychic, sleeping and health conditions of people living in the Arctic. The Arctic Light project will begin in summer 2021 in a few settlements in the Yamalo-Nenets Region - both at homes and at working places, the University’s Professor, a specialist in chronobiology, Denis Gubin told TASS.

"We want to conduct studies in different seasons; we will use equipment to monitor sleeping and active periods," he said. "We want to see how smart lighting will affect working abilities, sleeping, mood and certain health criteria in the indigenous peoples and in those who have come from Russia’s other regions."

"Our concept is that the human centric lighting will be favorable for people working in complicated conditions of the North," he said. "In this country’s history there have not been similar studies in the Arctic, which use modern instruments."

According to the scientist, the studies will continue for five years.

He pointed to a certain progress in chronobiology to understand how natural and artificial lights work, as well as effects from lighting during work. "The conclusion is the following: people, working in modern conditions, experience a shortage of daylight, and, on the contrary, in the evening and at night they receive extra light from artificial light sources, including gadgets," he said.

In northern regions, the problem is top important, as people there live in polar day and polar night periods, he continued. Experts have reasons to say the misbalance causes pathologies, including in psychology, metabolism, heart and vessels systems and possibly even those, related to oncology.

The university’s press service told TASS the smart lighting equipment will be set to distribute artificial light within a day and lighting will change depending on the natural light. The project’s leader is Christian Cajochen, who is heading the Centre for Chronobiology at the University of Basel

66th latitude

Research centers will be organized at medical facilities in Salekhard, Nadym, Yar-Sale and Aksarka. The experiment will feature about 200 people, Denis Gubin said.

"Observations will be both at home and at work," he said. "We will pick people who live in flats in cities - Salekhard, Nadym and two towns Yar-Sale and Aksarka. They are on the same latitude, about the 66th latitude. The problem of moods is very pressing there, and in particular among the indigenous, the youth, the share of suicides is rather high."

The volunteers are people of different ages. Their flats and working places will be equipped with smart light systems.

"Since we will install the equipment in flats, those would be, for example, a father, a mother and a kid older than 12 - we have set this age limit jointly with our Swiss leader," the scientist said. "We are still to decide certain technical aspects, but anyway, those would be areas where people sleep and where they work. During the first year, we will conduct studies in the conditions we have now."

The researchers hope the volunteers will have higher productivity, their biochemical test results will improve. At the same time, for the experiment’s accuracy, the scientists will involve a placebo group, the professor added.

Human centric lighting

The scientists will use the so-called human centric lighting, where artificial light makes the most comfortable lighting conditions. "We want to see how to use these technologies in different seasons and how people will react," the scientist said. "Theoretically, everything must be positive, but we need to have scientific reasons, and besides different people may react differently - depending on the genes. We want to check this supposition, too."

Support from local authorities

The Yamalo-Nenets Region’s government told TASS the region is the project’s partner and it supports the studies, as the local authorities are interesting in improving life and health of the people.

"For people, living on Yamal, where everyone feels a shortage of sunlight in winter and excessive light in summer, the Arctic Light project is very important," the government’s representative Sergei Uramayev said. "The light shortage or excessive light may cause diseases, to leave alone the low virus resistance."

The Yamalo-Nenets Region was established in 1930. It is located mostly north of the Arctic Circle, and the other part is on the slope of the Urals ridge. The climate is cold. Some areas have the perennially frozen soils. The cold Kara Sea is nearby. Winters in the region continue for up to eight months.