Presentation of Photobiomodulation
Brain Photobiomodulation Therapy (or Transcranial PBM), formerly known as Low-Level Laser Therapy (or LLLT), is the application of a specific light to the skull to treat brain damage and other neurological and psychiatric problems. This therapy is non-invasive and painless.
Can light be used for treatment ?
You may be skeptical when you read this… but there’s nothing magic about it. Just like the heat of a fire, or your wireless network, light is electromagnetic radiation. It’s a form of energy.
In fact, there are already various therapies that use light as a treatment.
This is the case with Phototherapy, which can be used to treat jaundice in infants. In mild cases, it is sufficient to expose the child to sunlight for about fifteen minutes, three or four times a day.
In more severe cases, the infant is placed in an incubator with blue LED panels.
The same applies to Photodynamic Therapy, which is used as a treatment for certain cancers.
A photosensitive chemical is injected into the tumor. When the tumor is illuminated with specific light, toxins are released and kill the cancer cells.
The discovery of Photobiomodulation
Professor Endre Mester is considered to be the father of Photobiomodulation. It was in 1967 that this Hungarian researcher accidentally missed an experiment using a laser that was not working at full power. His primary objective, which failed, was to reduce the cancerous tumors he had injected into rats.
Nevertheless, on the same rats that had been illuminated by this low-intensity laser, he found that the skin healed faster where he had made incisions, and the hair grew back at a faster rate. The link between improved cell function and light was made !
Today, Photobiomodulation therapy is beginning to take hold in many areas. You may already have used it without knowing it.
For example, some physiotherapists use it to treat pain or osteoarthritis.
Or even at the dentist’s, where it is used for its anti-inflammatory, anti-edematous, and analgesic properties. But also to improve healing.
Although the discovery of Photobiomodulation dates back more than 50 years, the scientific community has only really studied it for about 15 years. Today, the number of scientific studies on the subject is exploding year after year… and discoveries of the effects on the brain are continuing.
Photobiomodulation and the brain
Can you light up a brain?
We can also ask the question differently: can light penetrate the different human tissues (skin, bone, blood…) to illuminate the brain?
The answer is yes, and that’s where Photobiomodulation becomes interesting to treat our brain! Currently, researchers are using two methods: either direct lighting of the skull from above or by passing through the nose. Whatever the method, scientific studies show that a small percentage of the light reaches the brain. But beware, not just any light…
A specific light
Not all the lights, or should we say electromagnetic radiation, can penetrate the skull and illuminate the brain. In the case of Photobiomodulation, this light must have several specific characteristics (wavelength, power, exposure time, etc.).
During the discovery of Photobiomodulation, we saw that low-intensity lasers produced this light. Nowadays, we use electroluminescent lamps (LEDs), which allows us to build cheaper devices that do not heat up.
What are the effects on the brain ?
Before reading the following lines, it is important to keep in mind that the use of Photobiomodulation therapy on the brain is still experimental. Nevertheless, it has been tested for several years, and many studies have been published on the subject in serious and respectable scientific journals. These tests have been carried out on various brain conditions and different models (animal and human). The overall results indicate many positive reactions that can be used to treat different pathologies:
- Neurogenesis (creation of new neurons)
- Neurotrophic factors (growth and survival of existing neurons)
- Reduced inflammation of the brain (a symptom found in many diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s)
- Improved brain energy production (brain cells produce energy more efficiently)
- Increased cerebral blood flow (as the brain produces more energy, it needs more oxygen for nourishment)
- Anti-apoptosis effect (prolongation of cell life expectancy)
- Reduction of oxidative stress (a symptom found in many pathologies such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s)
- Improved communication between intrinsic brain networks (some brain networks communicate less well with each other in, for example, neurodegenerative diseases)
Photobiomodulation of the brain in everyday life
Brain Photobiomodulation sessions last between 20 and 40 minutes on average, several times a week. It is painless and silent.
There are many manufacturers of Photobiomodulation machines. So, the session may be different depending on the one you use, but the principle remains the same.
For example, the Vielight company offers helmets to place on the skull (practical), as well as a micro-bulb to place in the nose.
The Medx company does not offer helmets but a kind of shower head that you will have to place on the skull in the desired place. Thus, it is possible to aim at a specific area of the brain, for example, that of language:
Want to know more?
Anita Saltmarche is the specialist in photobiomodulation for neurological disorders. She has worked in this field for over 17 years, and even publishes scientific publications about it. She receives her patients in her clinic located in Toronto, but also offers remote consultation. I really recommend her, she will be of great help.
There are a large number of scientific studies on the subject, here are a few notable ones to start with:
- Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders
- Therapeutic potential of intranasal photobiomodulation therapy for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders
- Pulsed Near Infrared Transcranial and Intranasal Photobiomodulation Significantly Modulates Neural Oscillations
- Review of transcranial photobiomodulation for major depressive disorder
- Significant Improvement in Cognition in Mild to Moderately Severe Dementia Cases Treated with Transcranial Plus Intranasal Photobiomodulation
- Transcranial photobiomodulation in the management of brain disorders
If you would like to know more about this therapy, feel free to consult my articles in the Photobiomodulation category.
Also, my daughter is currently undergoing this therapy, and I am sharing my feedback and observations regarding her possible progress here.
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