How Does Light Heal Our Brain?
Light supports recovery from brain injury & decline through dozens of positive photochemical reactions.
The top mechanisms include the increase of blood flow, the increase of energy production, the reduction of inflammation, and the genesis of new cells.
Without proper blood flow, oxygen respiration, nutrients, and energy, our brains break down.
LIGHT THERAPY BLOG
Why does our Brain Decline?
As we age, our brain's health declines from low blood flow, low energy production, and cumulative cellular death.
Low Blood Flow
Blocked or weakened blood flow to the brain is has significant negative effects. Blood is essential for transporting oxygen, nutrients, and energy, while also removing waste.
Low ATP Production
Cells receiving less oxygen are less efficient producers of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), or usable cellular energy, leaving cells unable to function properly. ATP is necessary for cells to repair damage, remove waste, and respond to their environment.
Neurons and blood vessels are damaged during a stroke or due to brain decline. This damage leads to lasting negative effects until the cells are replaced or repaired.
Increase Blood Flow
Light induces blood flow through the localized release of nitric oxide, the warming of arteries, and the subsequent creation of a proton gradient flow into the cells.
Increased blood circulation to the brain is essential for recovery.
"In addition to the foregoing, there are some Photobiomodulation (PBM) tissue mechanisms that are specific to the brain. One of the most important is an increase in cerebral blood flow often reported after transcranial photobiomodualtion, leading to increased tissue oxygenation, and more oxidized CCO as measured by NIR spectroscopy." - Photobiomodulation and the brain: a new paradigm [Madison Hennessy and Michael R Hamblin. Journal of Optics. 2018.]
How does Light heal us?
Light stimulates the mitochondria of the cell, increasing the production of usable cellular energy, ATP.
ATP provides the energy for most cell functions. Maintaining proper levels of ATP is critical for repairing damage suffered after a traumatic brain injury.
"Specifically, exposure to this type of light, via Photobiomodulation (PBM), seems to provoke an increase in the availability of electrons for the reduction of molecular oxygen in the catalytic center of Cox, increasing mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), and increasing levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), and reactive oxygen species (ROS), all of which indicate heightened mitochondrial functioning and cellular metabolism" - Photobiomodulation and the brain: a new paradigm [Madison Hennessy and Michael R Hamblin. Journal of Optics. 2018.]
Repair & Regrow Cells
Light stimulates cellular repair pathways, mesenchymal stem cells, and neuroprogenitor cells to mend damage and form new blood vessels and neurons.
"Low level laser therapy (LLLT) has been demonstrated to be able to modulate biological mechanisms in wound healing, angiogenesis, and inflammation. Besides that, it has also been reported to induce angiogenesis in several experimental models where blood vessel formation is critical to success" - Low level laser therapy increases angiogenesis in a model of ischemic skin flap in rats mediated by VEGF, HIF-1α and MMP-2 [Cury. Moretti, Assis, Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. 2014]
Evidence suggests that Neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells, is stimulated by near-infrared light.
"One of the most notable and potentially significant effects of PBM in the brain is its ability to promote both synaptogenesis and neurogenesis. This is vitally important, as many brain conditions, including TBI, neurodegenerative diseases, and mood disorders can be traced, either partially or in full, to atrophy, cell death, and poor neuronal connections in certain regions of the brain." - Photobiomodulation and the brain: a new paradigm [Madison Hennessy and Michael R Hamblin. Journal of Optics. 2018.]
Light is Safe & Effective
Significant improvements in cognitive performance post-transcranial, red/near-infrared light-emitting diode treatments in chronic, mild traumatic brain injury: open-protocol study
Authors: Margaret A Naeser 1, Ross Zafonte, Maxine H Krengel, Paula I Martin, Judith Frazier, Michael R Hamblin, Jeffrey A Knight, William P Meehan 3rd, Errol H Baker
Safe: "LED therapy is noninvasive, painless, and non-thermal (cleared by the United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA], an insignificant risk device)"
Effective: "A significant linear trend was observed for the effect of LED treatment over time for the Stroop test for Executive Function . . . Participants reported improved sleep, and fewer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, if present. Participants and family reported better ability to perform social, interpersonal, and occupational functions."
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Photobiomodulation for traumatic brain injury and stroke
Michael R. Hamblin,
Safe: "The almost complete lack of any adverse side-effects of Photobiomodulation (PBM), coupled with growing disillusion with pharmaceutical drugs that affect brain function, have combined together to suggest an alternative physical therapy approach to improving brain function."
Effective: "Photobiomodulation (PBM) employs red or near-infrared (NIR) light (600–1100nm) to stimulate healing, protect tissue from dying, increase mitochondrial function, improve blood flow, and tissue oxygenation. PBM can also act to reduce swelling, increase antioxidants, decrease inflammation, protect against apoptosis, and modulate microglial activation state. All these mechanisms of action strongly suggest that PBM delivered to the head should be beneficial in cases of both acute and chronic TBI.."