Psychology postdoc Myriam Juda studies circadian rhythms and is working with BC Hydro to improve patients’ recovery at Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

Psychology, Research

Psychology postdoc partners with BC Hydro to study how innovative light therapy can improve mental health and addictions treatments

August 08, 2018

By Christine Lyons

Can lighting affect your mental health? We're pretty sure that we know the answer, here in RainCouver. Dr. Myriam Juda is taking the question one step further: Can new LED lighting that mimics natural sunlight be used to affect the body’s natural circadian rhythms and improve mental health and recovery?  

Dr. Juda is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychology whose research into human circadian rhythms has landed her a Mitacs Accelerate internship with BC Hydro and the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (BCMHA). She is one of many students and researchers benefiting from the British Columbia government’s $10 million investment in internship programs through Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization that connects emerging researchers with industry partners to tackle real-world problems.

Juda’s research involves new LED lighting technology that is adjustable and programmable in colour temperature and intensity. This technology is more closely able to simulate outdoor lighting patterns.  

“Despite the fact that humans have used artificial lighting for many years now, our bodies are still very much in tune with the natural rhythms of outdoor light and we predict that getting good sleep and having stable circadian rhythms will improve patient recovery. This study is among the first of its kind. Our partnership with Mitacs, BC Hydro, and the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction will allow us to collect detailed data on how tunable LED lighting affects the rest-activity cycle, sleep and psychological well-being of patients with concurrent disorder (co-occurring substance abuse disorder and mental health disorder)."

Juda also has her own company, Circadian Light Therapy, a sleep and light therapy consulting firm and says she founded it because one of the most rewarding parts of her research and career was seeing how her work could have a real impact on people’s lives. “Chronobiology and circadian rhythms has been an area where the research largely remains within academia and while this is changing, we still have a long way to go.”

While Juda awaits data from the project to come in around September 2018, she has also secured a grant through AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network and will be commencing a lighting intervention study in partnership with the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to providing supportive housing for Japanese seniors.  

Juda says it is heartening to see industry and community partners like BC Hydro showing an interest in her research “I think it presents the opportunity for more positive impact and possibilities for improving lighting in hospitals and other care units, and eventually also in settings like schools or offices.”

Further Connections:

More about Mitacs:

  • Mitacs has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 19 years and works with 60 post-secondary institutions, thousands of companies, and both federal and provincial governments to build partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada.
  • Government funding will support three Mitacs programs to benefit students and industry:
    • Mitacs Accelerate offers a minimum four-month collaborative research internship with industry for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.
    • Mitacs Elevate provides two-year collaborative post-doctoral fellowships with industry, with special focus on advancing research management and professional skills.
    • Mitacs Globalink offers research internships for top international undergraduates to study in Canada, or for Canadian students to conduct research in a Mitacs partner country.