Greeks are forefathers of western medicine, but Cleo Papagiannis argues the doctor isn’t always right.
Papagiannis is a research assistant in the Bronowski Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, where she offers light treatment therapy for patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
She says the medication prescribed for Parkinson’s can affect patients’ body clocks through increasing levels of dopamine, telling the body it is in ‘go’ mode when it’s actually time to go to bed.
This can lead to insomnia, anxiety and depression.
But with light treatment therapy, Papagiannis and her colleagues are bringing patients’ natural cycle under control.
“Light therapy has been used for many years to treat depression and insomnia – to cure the winter blues,” she says.
“So we thought, if we could reduce depression and insomnia, we could alleviate the drug burden on patients.”
Papagiannis explains that light therapy is a closely-monitored, non-invasive treatment program, involving a very special, medical-grade light.
“If you had it sitting in the lounge room, you’d just think it was a very strong light,” she says.
“But it’s a whole lot more.”
Patients in the program sit in front of the light for an hour every day.
She says the benefits of light therapy aren’t well-known among the Greek-Australian community.
“My dad, for example, will go to the doctor and come home with medication, and he doesn’t know what it’s for or what it does,” she says.
“That’s how we’ve been brought up – not to question. The doctor knows what they’re doing!”
But she says light therapy treatments have had great results.
While it’s important for Parkinson’s patients to maintain their medication, she says those she sees are able to maintain a low dose.
Parkinson’s Victoria CEO, Glenn Mahoney, says more research is needed to see if light treatment can impact Parkinson’s disease itself, but he can see the benefits.
“If it helps people to relax, to sleep better, then that’s a good thing,” he says.
“Beyond that, in terms of altering medication, that requires further trials.”
“But if light therapy helps, then it’s a good thing,” he says.
Papagiannis says the Bronowski Institute is only clinic using light therapy treatment on Parkinson’s, and says Australia is sadly a bit behind in medical research.
“Unless the USA or Europe are doing it, there isn’t much interest,” she says.
She says a lack of funding is the main hindrance for light treatment really taking off.