Adjunctive bright light therapy for treating bipolar depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Brain Behav. 2020 Dec;10(12):e01876. doi: 10.1002/brb3.1876. Epub 2020 Oct 9.


Objectives: Bright light therapy (BLT) was reported as an effective adjunctive treatment option for bipolar disorder. Previous meta-analytic study showed that augmentation treatment with light therapy significantly decreased the severity of bipolar depression. However, most of included studies were case-control studies and several of them focused on BLT that was provided in combination with sleep deprivation therapy.

Methods: In this meta-analysis, we used several electronic databases to search the studies and included only randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies to compare BLT with control experimental groups for treating bipolar depression with pharmacological treatment to clarify the adjunctive efficacy of BLT. We searched the databases of EMBASE, MEDLINE, Scopus, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and for studies published in English until September 19, 2019. Two researchers conducted the literature screening, data extraction, and methodological quality assessment independently. The main outcome was the response rate and remission rate. We used the Review Manager 5.3 Software for the meta-analysis.

Results: Four trials with a total of 190 participants (intervention: 94, control: 96) with bipolar depression were evaluated to gauge the effects of light therapy. The meta-analysis showed risk ratios of 1.78 (95% CI 1.24-2.56, p = .002; I2 = 17%) demonstrating a significant effect of light therapy in the response rate of bipolar disorder. The meta-analysis shows risk ratios of 2.03 (95% CI 0.48-8.59, p = .34; I2 = 67%) demonstrating no significant effect of light therapy in the remission rate of patients with bipolar disorder. None of the articles reported any serious adverse effects. Manic switch rate was 1.1% in the light therapy group and 1.2% in the control group.

Conclusions: Bright light therapy is an effective treatment for reducing depression symptoms among patients with bipolar depression.

Keywords: bipolar disorder; bright light therapy; meta-analysis; randomized control trials.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Phototherapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome