What is this study about?

The purpose of this study is to see if treatment with artificial bright light and negative ions relieves symptoms in patients with chronic depression.  These two treatments have already been successful for patients who become depressed during winter months, and we believe they also hold great promise for year-round use. 

 Participation is voluntary and treatment is free.

 Why choose an alternative treatment?

It can be especially frustrating to continue feeling depressed when antidepressant drugs haven’t worked.  Even with new-generation medications, some people continue to experience a variety of side effects and unresolved depression.  Or you might just feel uneasy about taking medication in the first place. 

 What are the symptoms?

While brief periods of feeling "blue" in reaction to life stress are common, major
depression includes several of the symptoms below, nearly every day for more than two weeks.  In chronic depression, at least some of the following symptoms have been present most of the time for at least the past two years:

  • Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Overeating or a poor appetite
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss although you were not dieting
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Feeling down, sad, or hopeless
  • Feeling bad about yourself or feeling you were letting yourself or family down
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling fidgety or restless (moving around more than normal)
  • Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed


Clinical research at the New York State Psychiatric Institute is investigating two simple, new, non-drug treatments for chronic depression, all administered at home.  If you are age 18 to 40 and are feeling some of the symptoms listed above, you might be eligible for this study. 

 The treatments include:

            Bright light therapy:

Soon after waking up, you sit at a special lighting device.  While doing this, you can read, write, eat breakfast, or do any number of other quiet activities.

            Negative air ionization:

Soon after waking up, you sit in front of a silent electronic device.  It works to create atmospheric conditions, thought to be therapeutic, similar to outdoors. 


You will be assigned randomly (that is, by chance) to either the bright light therapy, high-density negative ion therapy, or low-density negative ion therapy.  It is expected that the antidepressant response to low-density ions will be lower than for high-density ions and bright light.  However, if at the end of five weeks you have not responded to either light or negative ion treatment, you will be given the option of undergoing the alternate treatment for another five weeks. The informed consent process will include a discussion of the risks and benefits of participation.

 Participants keep daily records and visit Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center for evaluation sessions about every 10 days.  Scheduling is flexible.

 Ideally you would enter our program not using antidepressant drugs.  However, if your doctor does not want you to discontinue use, continuation with SSRI’s (for example, Prozac, Celexa, Paxil) would be acceptable.  Of course, this means that even while using the drug you have remained depressed. 


The Clinical Chronobiology group is a worldwide leader in developing innovative, effective new treatments for depression.  Since 1984, we have pioneered the concept that environmental therapies – supplementing indoor light and air conditions – leads to an improved mood state in people with depression.  This discovery was made while treating people with winter depression.


Dr. Michael Terman, Director, received his Ph.D. degree in physiological psychology from Brown University, and is a Professor in the Psychiatry Department at Columbia’s College of Physicians & Surgeons.  He collaborates in his work with his long-time associate, Dr. Jiuan Su Terman, and their associates Dr. Ziad Boulos and Dr. Mila Macchi.

PLEASE CALL 212-543-6118 #4 or email us at,
mentioning you interest in the Chronic Depression Study.