Longevity

Longevity Briefs: Can Infrared Light Therapy Improve Cognition?

Posted on 25 October 2021

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: As we age, we suffer a decline in cognitive capacity and become more at risk of developing dementia. Many factors may contribute to this decline, including reduced cerebral blood flow and reduced production of ATP, the universal ‘fuel’ used to power all cells. There is evidence that delivering near-infrared light to the brain may target some of these changes, such as by boosting ATP production by mitochondria and improving nitric oxide levels (which controls blood flow). This potentially offers a way to improve memory and alleviate symptoms of dementia.

What did the researchers do: Researchers conducted two studies into the effects of near-infrared light (1068nm wavelength), delivered non-invasively using a helmet device containing an array of LED panels. One study enrolled 35 healthy individuals over 45 years of age in the UK, while the other looked at 57 individuals with Alzheimer’s disease in the USA. Both studies were randomised and double-blind, with some participants receiving sham devices to act as a placebo treatment. The device was used twice a day for 6 minutes at a time.


Key takeaway(s) from this research: In both studies, near Infrared light stimulations were associated with a significant improvement in cognition when compared with the control group. In the UK study, healthy participants experienced improved motor function, memory performance, and processing speed. In the US study, Alzheimer’s patients who received the real treatment performed significantly better in various memory tests and in auditory verbal learning tests. Many patients also experienced improved sleep, mood and energy levels and lower anxiety. No adverse effects were reported.

The results of these studies are promising, particularly given that the treatment in question is non-invasive, appears to have no side effects, and can be easily done at home. Now we need more, larger studies to fully confirm its effectiveness.


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References

Effect of Transcranial Near-Infrared Light 1068 nm Upon Memory Performance in Aging Healthy Individuals: A Pilot Study: https://doi.org/10.1089/photob.2020.4956

Transcranial Near Infrared Light Stimulations Improve Cognition in Patients with Dementia: https://doi.org/10.14336/AD.2021.0229

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