Selective Photobiomodulation for Emotion Regulation

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

Article Links: Selective photobiomodulation for emotion regulation: model-based dosimetry study (

For many neurological and psychological dysfunctions, people and their providers generally turn to medications as their first course of action to treat their symptoms. However, medications are not always effective and even if they are able to reduce symptoms they frequently have adverse side effects. As an alternative to traditional therapies, there is a new intervention emerging called Photobiomodulation (PBM), which is an effective, noninvasive option that has few, if any, side effects and can be done in the comfort of patients’ own homes. Photobiomodulation 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 photobiomodulation 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. Essentially, it helps to oxygenate blood and bring the oxygenated blood to the regions of the brain to which the light is directed. It also reduces neuroinflammation and stimulates neurogenesis.

Holmes and colleagues (2019) found that that as little as one, 10-minute photobiomodulation session was sufficient to increase performance on a working memory task. However, repeated sessions were more efficient at increasing cognitive performance on a range of executive function tests. In addition to optimizing brain function, photobiomodulation is also being studied as a treatment modality for a range of disorders including, but not limited to, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, dementia, traumatic brain injury, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Indeed, one study found that patient symptoms with treatment resistant (i.e., traditional treatments) Major Depressive Disorder actually decreased by 40% with photobiomodulation treatment. It is thought that the reason photobiomodulation has an effect on emotion disorders is that it is able to specifically target brain regions that have been associated with emotion regulation such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex by targeting areas F3, F4, Fp1, Fp2, and FpZ. Also, the intranasal location that is frequently available with photobiomodulation systems is likely to target ventral portions of the prefrontal cortex.

Integrated Neuroscience Services, a division of Integrate Brain Health, is 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 photobiomodulation can benefit you or someone you love, please contact us and we will be happy to introduce you to the program! 479.225.3223

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