According to information from a new study published by the journal Nature, late night computer use can increase a person’s chance of developing depression or learning difficulties. The study suggests that it is caused by the computer’s lights and not the sleep deprivation.

The mice-based study was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, and it explains how false lighting from lamps and computers at night are harmful.

“Basically, what we found is that chronic exposure to bright light — even the kind of light you experience in your own living room at home or in the workplace at night if you are a shift worker — elevates levels of a certain stress hormone in the body, which results in depression and lowers cognitive function,” says Samer Hattar, a biology professor in the Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

The research revealed light expose to the eye activates cells called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), which does something to center of the brain that is responsible for mood, learning and memory. Interestingly, the right kind of light therapy can work on patients suffering from seasonal depression.

Prescribing light therapy certainly sounds safer than antidepressant medications like Paxil or Effexor. Many studies have been conducted on antidepressants like Paxil that show the drug’s direct links to various side effects including suicidal thoughts and behavior and birth defects. Some of the birth defects linked to Paxil include PPHN, neural tube defects, spina bifida, oral clefts, club foot and heart, lung and brain defects. If light is the cause of the depression symptoms, light therapy may be a better solution to the problem than potentially harmful drugs.