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Mood Brighteners: Light therapy gets nod as depression buster

A new scientific era may have dawned for light therapy, a potential depression fighter that has languished in the shadows of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy for the past 20 years.

A research review commissioned by the American Psychiatric Association in Washington, D.C., concludes that in trials, daily exposure to bright light is about as effective as antidepressant drugs in quelling seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or winter depression, and other forms of depression.

"I now tell my patients that light therapy is a reasonable depression treatment, even if the data base for this approach is relatively small," says psychiatrist Robert N. Golden of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Golden directed the new statistical review, which appears in the April American Journal of Psychiatry.

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