Infrared Light Might Help People with Dementia, Researchers Find

Kristy S. Colling, Ph.D.

Article Link: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dementia is a complicated problem that is plaguing many of our seniors. It is not only devastating for the patient, but also their loved ones as they watch the person they love gradually lose their memory and experience other symptoms, such as emotion dysregulation. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s has many causes: Chronic inflammation interrupts the ability for micoglia and astrocytes to clear away waste, debris, and protein collections. Vascular dysfunction leads to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Neurofibrillary tangles accumulate inside neuron cell bodies and disrupt intracellular transport of nutrients within the cell. And, most notably, amyloid plaques build up between neurons and disrupt cell function and communication.

The medications that are currently available to treat dementia do not work for all patients and may have harmful side effects. While there are treatments in development that will hopefully one day help to reduce amyloid plagues, they are not currently available. In the meantime, 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.

A recent study investigated the effect of PBM on patients with mild to moderate dementia. Researchers found that treatment with PBM helped to increase scores of logical memory and auditory learning tests. There were also noticeable improvements in patients’ mood observed by the patients’ caretakers. Reports also noted better sleep, more energy, and less anxiety. PBM likely benefits dementia patients in at least three ways: First, by increasing the efficiency of neuronal cell activity through increased ATP production. Second, PBM has been shown to have many beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. Third, PBM increases blood flow, which affects the vascular aspects of the disease.

We, at Integrated Neuroscience Services, are now offering a form of Photobiomodulation via Vielight as part of our Head-On program. This system is effective and convenient, as it is used in the patient’s home. 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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