Article Review: Changes in Brain Function/Structure After Self-administered Home Photobiomodulation

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Chao, L., Barlow, C., Karimpoor, M., & Lim, L (2020). Changes in brain function and structure after self-administered home photobiomodulation treatment in a concussion case. Frontiers in Neurology, 11, 952.

Article Review By: Kristy Snyder Colling, Ph.D. and Robert Coben, Ph.D.

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Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are an all too familiar problem. Recently, TBIs from sports injuries are becoming more and more a topic of interest, with professional, college, and K-12 school teams starting to realize how detrimental concussions are for the athletes. While the effects of TBIs vary based on the region of the brain affected and the extent of the injury, common symptoms range from physical (e.g., headaches, sleep disturbances, fatigue, nausea, seizures), to emotional (depression, anxiety, agitation, anger, explosiveness, mood swings) and cognitive (attention and memory problems). Indeed, studies have shown that verbal learning scores are lower for contact-sport college athletes than for non-contact sport athletes. TBIs are also associated with physical changes in the brain, such as cerebral atrophy and reduced cerebral blood flow in the frontal and temporal lobes.

Unfortunately, there is no standard treatment for TBI. However, there is emerging evidence that a new treatment called Photobiomodulation (PBM) is an effective, noninvasive option that has few, if any, side effects and can be done in the comfort of patients’ homes. PBM is a form of light-based therapy, commonly in near-infrared wavelengths, that is directed toward neural tissue. Studies of cadavers show that light from PBM can penetrate to 40mm in the brain. Once the light reaches neural tissue it works to improve brain function by enhancing neural repair and cell function. It does so by stimulating mitochondrial respiration and the synthesis of ATP. In other words, it helps neuron cells make energy by increasing glucose metabolism and oxygen consumption. Studies have shown that PBM has been associated with improvements in headaches, sleep problems, cognition, mood dysregulation, anxiety, and irritability. Benefits also reach to the brain structure, such as increases in cortical and subcortical thickness in regions like the thalamus and hippocampus.

We, at Integrated Neuroscience Services are now offering a form of Photobiomodulation via Vielight as part of our Head-On program. A recent case study has highlighted the efficacy of the use of Vielight PBM for the treatment of TBI. The case study follows the treatment of a professional hockey player who suffered 6 concussions over the course of 6 years. He reported symptoms of headaches, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating and maintaining attention. He was given a Vielight device, which is head mounted and projects light at areas of the brain associated with the so-called “default-mode network.” He used the device every other day for 8 weeks. After which, his test scores on verbal learning and memory, executive function, attention, and processing speed all improved. Tests also indicated increased cortical thickness and profusion of the following regions: Frontal, which is associated with executive function; temporal, which is associated with language processing and memory; occipital, which is responsible for visual processing; and the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory. He also reported improvements in headaches.

If you are interested in learning how PBM can benefit you or someone you love, please contact us and we will be happy to introduce you to the program.

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