The winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), can be beaten by shining a bright light into sufferers' ears, Finnish scientists claimed Wednesday.
Researchers from the University of Oulu said that the human brain is as sensitive to light as the eyes, making it possible to treat SAD with a headset that beams light, rather than music, into the ears.
In a clinical trial involving 89 participants suffering from SAD, between 74 and 79 percent were cured of seasonal depression after using the device for between eight and twelve minutes every day for four weeks.
The human brain contains around 18 sites with photoreceptor proteins, which also are found in the eyes, the researchers said.
Professor Timo Takala, chief physician at Oulu Deaconess Institute, said, "Bright light channeled into the brain via ear canal is an important future method to treat seasonal affective disorder."
The results were due to be presented at the International Forum for Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Budapest and were published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice.
A company called Valkee developed the brain-stimulation headset, a medical device certified under EU regulations.
Finland's long, dark winters mean the country has a high rate of SAD sufferers and one of the world's highest suicide rates.