Photobiomodulation (PBM),  previously known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), offers an opportunity to treat Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Parkinson's disease, and other disorders by using red or near-infrared light to stimulate healing. It also relieves pain and inflammation and prevents tissue from dying.

In the special collection of articles published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, experts review the progress of using PBM therapy in treating neurodegenerative and neurological disorders. But it also suggests that larger clinical trials are needed.

 Photobiomodulation Therapy: Experts Looking at Shining Light on Neurodegenerative, Other Brain Disorders
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
A modern transcranial photobiomodulation helmet with an intranasal applicator to target the underside of the brain.

Photobiomodulation Therapy in Treating Various Disorders

New Medical Life Sciences reported that there is an increasing interest in using PBM as a brain-boosting technique in healthy and young individuals because it is an effective strategy to promote microcirculation as well as cellular proliferation and regeneration. More so, it reduces edema, pain, oxidative stress, and inflammation brought by acute, chronic, and traumatic diseases. 

Furthermore, there is growing preclinical evidence that shows PBM ameliorates neuronal oxidative stress, apoptosis, and neuroinflammation. Studies have also shown that PBM can stimulate neurogenesis and synaptogenesis.

Dr. Michael R. Hamblin from the University of Johannesburg and Farzerd Salehpour, MSc from the College for Light Medicine and Photobiomodulation in Arizona, USA, guest-edited a collection of articles that presents the current state of the art in PBM application for people with dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and other brain conditions. 

They explained that PBM therapy for the brain uses red or near-infrared light emitted by lasers or light-emitting diodes that are delivered to the scalp to stimulate neurons and activate brain function. 

They added that this therapy could increase cerebral blood flow and increase cerebral metabolic capacity. It is being used in various applications and has gained the credibility of being one of the therapeutic strategies to treat disorders. 

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Improvements Needed in Using Photobiomodulation Therapy

A news release via EurekAlert! Salehpour said that PBM would likely be used indefinitely among those with neurodegenerative disorders. " It is evident that there are no significant side effects of PBM to the brain and that different wavelengths can be used, although values around 800 nanometers appear to be most beneficial," he said.

But there is still more room for improvement in the application of PBM. For instance, there is a need to develop safe and effective LED helmets that patients could use at home. Also, scientists have identified some issues in using various neuroimaging techniques that provide objective evidence of brain activity from using PBM.

The guest editors have also highlighted several challenges to overcome as well. This includes how well light penetrates through the scalp and skull into the brain and how much light absorbed could affect the brain.

Questions were also raised regarding the application of light on various anatomical locations and whether too much light can be delivered to the brain. Salehpour emphasized that questions arise in the application of PBM to improve its use. Scientists have explored whether PBM can also be used in combination with conventional drugs or food supplements.

Considering the efficacy of PBM and its lack of side effects, the guest editors said that different scientists would continue to explore it to treat neurological disorders.

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