Better cognitive function
In today’s blog we are going to cover the topic of Red Light Therapy for brain health.
- The Brain
- How does Red light therapy work?
- Red light therapy for brain health
The brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body.
It is made up of more than 100 billion nerves that communicate in trillions of connections called synapses. (1)
It only weighs about 3 pounds and those 3 pounds are what makes us intelligent creatures capable of speaking, thinking, writing and even questioning the purpose of life.
Like any part of the body, the brain is also susceptible to diseases, injuries and declining functions as we grow older. The main disorders that our brain can suffer from are:
- Traumatic events such as a stroke, a traumatic brain injury and global brain ischemia.
- Age-related degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Dementia.
- Psychiatric and mood disorders including schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. (2)
There are several advocates to use red light therapy for brain health. According to Dr. Michael Hamblin, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, all these apparently different conditions can be addressed with light therapy treatments. (2)
How does red light therapy work?
If you still haven’t, take a look at What is red light therapy? and How does red light therapy work?
Once you understand how red light therapy affects the cells of the body, and to be more specific in the case of the brain. Here is a brief explanation of what happens.
When you expose the light on the head, the red and near-infrared wavelengths of light penetrate the skull and are absorbed by the brain. This helps the damaged brain cells or tissue replenish and heal. (2)
Red light therapy achieves this primarily through stimulating cell mitochondrial activity to boost ATP production, decrease inflammation and oxidative stress and increase other cellular activities that strengthen the brain. The light absorbed by the mitochondria enhances the cell functions and enables them to achieve regeneration and better protection. (3)
Red light therapy and brain health
Let’s dive in, with the support of a few studies, into all the healing possibilities for the brain that red light therapy offers.
- Improved reaction time, memory and mood
A study performed in 2013 demonstrates how red light therapy has several benefits on the human brain compared to the placebo group. (4)
- Quicker reaction time, proved with the sustained-attention psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) that measured the speed by which study participants responded to visual stimulus. (4)
- Better memory, proved by the delayed match-to-sample (DMS) memory task, where the outcome measures included measuring readiness for a quick response and the number of correct trials. (4, 5)
- Improved mood, as Light Therapy helped participants to sustain more positive emotional states. The mood was measured by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), a clinical survey that measures feelings and emotions. The participants were asked to fill the form in before and two weeks after having a treatment. (4, 6)
- Cognitive decline
In a more recent study, researchers treated adults who were at risk of cognitive decline, with red light therapy with a very positive neurocognitive effect. (7)
All the participants aged between 49 and 90, and some of them also struggled with cognitive decline due to vascular disease. Red light therapy proved to be effective regardless of the nature of the cognitive decline.
Another study published in February 2019, examined the frontal brain functions among elderly men. (8)
The subjects were divided into two groups, the placebo and the treatment. Those who received the red light therapy treatment showed improved cognitive performance following the treatment. The results demonstrate that red light therapy can really work as a safe manner to treat age related cognitive decline. (8)
- Learning ability
In 2017, a group of scientists gathered 118 participants to see if red light therapy could have a meaningful impact on the participant’s learning abilities. They followed the same standard used in previous research and divided the group into a placebo segment and a treatment segment. Results showed the treatment segment of participants improved their learning capabilities. (9)
During the treatment process, the red light therapy device was directed at the lateral prefrontal cortex of the participants, and right after the treatment they experienced faster and better rule-based learnings. (9)
This means that if you had to learn a sequence of steps, for example how to follow a recipe, the participants that were exposed to the light would have aided their ability to remember all the ingredients needed and use each in the correct order.
- Traumatic brain injuries
Cognitive decline can also result due to a traumatic brain injury. A person who suffers one may experience memory and concentration problems, mood swings, depression and/or anxiety among others. (10)
Good news is that red light therapy has been shown to stimulate the growth of new nerve tissue in damaged brain cells, improving cognitive brain functions in those patients who suffer from TBU and also from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (11, 12)
For those not familiar with it, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease prevalent among athletes and military veterans or anyone who presents a history of repetitive brain trauma. (13)
- Age-related Neurological disorders
Finally, we are going to talk about diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
In a study published in 2017 concerning patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s and red light therapy, revealed that patients showed progress when it came to:
- Memory and ability to recall;
- Executive brain function;
- Visual attention and task switching;
- Performance on the clock-drawing test (which consists of asking dementia patients to place the numbers in the clock and set the time to 11:10).
It is also important to point out that no adverse effects from the red light therapy treatments were reported among the dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. (14, 15)
Although we are still in the beginning stages of understanding how red light therapy affects the brain, the benefits of red light therapy seem to be much broader than it was initially considered.
There is definitely a long way to go, but the results so far are very positive. If you struggle with any type of cognitive decline or disease, red light therapy is definitely a safe form of therapy worth trying.
Any of our devices can be used to benefit your brain, except the Target Light 670.
The ideal light is the Advantage 900, due to its size and power.
Check out our devices and boost your brain function from the comfort of your home!
*You can find all the studies used for this blog below.
Check out other related blogs:
*Sources of information:
- Anatomy of the brain – https://www.webmd.com/brain/picture-of-the-brain
- Hamblin, M.R. (2016, October). Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders. BBA Clin, 113-124. Doi: 10.1016/j.bbacli.2016.09.002
- Hennessy, M., Hamblin, M.R. (2017, January). Photobiomodulation and the brain: a new paradigm. J Opt, 19 (1). Doi: 10.1088/2040-8986/19/1/013003
- Barrett, D.W., Gonzalez-Lima, F. (2013, January). Transcranial infrared laser stimulation produces beneficial cognitive and emotional effects in humans. Neuroscience, 230: 13-23. Doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.11.016.
- Delayed Matching to Sample (DMS). (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2019, from https://www.cambridgecognition.com/cantab/cognitive-tests/memory/delayed-matching-to-sample-dms/
- What is the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule? (PANAS). (2019, August 20). Retrieved November 22, 2019, from https://positivepsychology.com/positive-and-negative-affect-schedule-panas/
- Vargas, E. Barrett, D.W., Saucedo, C.L., Huang, L.D., Abraham, J.A., Tanaka, H., Haley, A.P., Gonzalez-Lima, F. (2017, July). Beneficial neurocognitive effects of transcranial laser in older adults. Lasers Med Sci, 32(5):1153-1162. Doi: 10.1007/s10103-017-2221-y
- Chan A.S., Lee, T.L., Yeung, M.K., Hamblin, M.R. (2019, February). Photobiomodulation improves the frontal cognitive function of older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34(2):369-377. doi: 10.1002/gps.5039
- Blanco, N.J, Saucedo, C.L., Gonzalez-Lima, F. (2017, March) Transcranial infrared laser stimulation improves rule-based, but not information-integration, category learning in humans. Neurobiol Learn Mem, 139:69-75. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2016.12.016
- Traumatic brain injury. (2019, March 29). Retrieved November 24, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20378557
- Margaret, N., Michael H. (2015, September). Traumatic Brain Injury: A Major Medical Problem That Could Be Treated Using Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared LED Photobiomodulation. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, 33(9): 443-446. Doi: 10.1089/pho.2015.3986
- Naeser M., Zafonte R., Krengel, M.H., Martin, P.I., Frazier, J., Hamblin, M.R., Knight J.A., Meehan, W.P., Baker, E.H. (2014, June). Significant improvements in cognitive performance post-transcranial, red/near-infrared light-emitting diode treatments in chronic, mild traumatic brain injury: open-protocol study. Journal of Neurotrauma, 31(11): 1008-1017. Doi: 10.1089/neu.2013.3244
- What is CTE? (2019, November 14). Retrieved November 24, 2019, from https://concussionfoundation.org/CTE-resources/what-is-CTE
- Berman, M.H., Halper, J.P., Nicholas, T.W., Jarret, H., Lundy, A., Huang, J.H. (2017). Photobiomodulation with Near Infrared Light Helmet in a Pilot, Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial in Dementia Patients Testing Memory and Cognition. J Neurol Neurosci. 8(1). pii: 176. doi: 10.21767/2171-6625.1000176
- Saltmarche, A.E., Naeser, M.A., Ho, K.F., Hamblin, M.R., Lim, L. (2017, August). Significant Improvement in Cognition in Mild to Moderately Severe Dementia Cases Treated with Transcranial Plus Intranasal Photobiomodulation: Case Series Report. Photomed Laser Surg, 35(8):432-441. doi: 10.1089/pho.2016.4227