Red light therapy has been used to treat a variety of issues related to brain health.
Included in these are age-related cognitive decline, stroke, traumatic brain injuries, and numerous other treatment benefits.
In this article, we’ll explore how red light treatments can have profound effects on the brain. We’ll also provide some guidelines for treatment.
In addition to red, the BIOMAX Series panels now also feature traces of blue lights for added benefits.
Read on to learn more about the many links found in research between brain health and red light therapy.
Research on the Link Between Red Light Therapy and Brain Health
Red light therapy treatment involves the use of red and near-infrared wavelengths to spark beneficial processes in the mitochondria.
The therapeutic benefits of red light therapy occur at the cellular level, especially when used in full-body treatment.
Red light therapy affects the brain through:
These three effects, when combined, support the body’s natural wound healing and other restorative mechanisms.
Many neurological disorders are directly linked to poor cerebral blood flow, chronic inflammation, and a condition called mitochondrial dysfunction. This refers to the inability of cells’ mitochondria to produce enough energy, which results in weak and vulnerable cells.
Whether it’s a brain cell, a stem cell, a muscle cell, or a blood cell, if it’s not doing its job, this has poor effects both on local systems and the body as a whole.
The Gut-Brain Axis and Its Relation to Brain Function
It was once thought that red light therapy had to be directed at the affected area in order to see the benefits.
In part, this is correct because the treatment can support cells in the area directly.
However, in 2019, Australian researchers discovered something remarkable. The study’s lead author, Dr. Ann Liebert said, “It is entirely possible that some of the beneficial effects of PBM on systemic conditions and metabolic disorders that have historically been observed have been due to effects on the gut microbiome rather than the local tissue and this possibility has gone unrecognized until now.”
Shining red and near-infrared light on the abdomen, rather than the brain, could be a way to improve brain health. This hypothesis is based on the abscopal effect, where localized cancer treatment sometimes results in the shrinkage of untreated tumors.
If this hypothesis proves correct, it validates what Hippocrates said thousands of years ago: “All disease begins in the gut.”
Red Light Therapy and Cognitive Function
Several studies reveal that near-infrared light therapy can lead to improved cognitive function. This is whether it’s related to age, traumatic brain injuries, or degenerative brain disorders.
Another landmark 2014 study found that red/NIR light therapy helped Gulf War veterans, many of whom had suffered concussions and other types of traumatic brain injury, ranging from mild to severe.
Significant improvement was seen in various brain functions, including verbal learning and executive functioning. They also enjoyed an improvement in mood.
Red light therapy has been shown to help improve cognitive function in healthy individuals by increasing brainwave activity in ranges that are associated with creativity, problem-solving, and impulse control. This also decreases brainwave activity in ranges associated with stress and anxiety.
Another study found significant improvement in attention, mood, reaction time, and memory retrieval. The study’s authors stated that light therapy could improve the self-regulating functions of the brain.
RLT for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease
Red light therapy has neuroprotective effects on the brain. This is exciting news for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease patients.
Age-related cognitive decline and the loss of other brain functions are prevalent problems, especially in aging populations.
Research shows that aging is linked to mitochondrial dysfunction as well as a decrease in the quality of mitochondria within neurons.
Mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to loss of cognitive function, dementia, and degenerative brain disorders. However, mitochondrial health and function can be improved using red light therapy.
One study showed how red light therapy led to higher cognitive function scores, and less ‘wandering’ in Alzheimer’s Disease patients. This was immediately following treatment.
Research on the effects of red light therapy on Parkinson’s Disease is currently limited to a few small animal studies.
However, since Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease are both degenerative brain disorders, there is potential in the neuroprotective effects of red light therapy observed in a 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease study.
Neuroprotection supports the survival and longevity of neurons and slows cell apoptosis.
It is possible that ongoing red light therapy treatment could help slow, halt, or potentially reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and other degenerative brain disorders.
In a 2018 review, these neuroprotective effects of red light therapy were confirmed.
RLT for Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury
Red light therapy can improve verbal learning, motor function, sleep, symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other brain function markers. This is according to a 2014 study that found that red light therapy treatments improve mitochondrial function. This effect was especially noticeable in cells that were hypoxic or compromised.
A progressively neurodegenerative condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can develop in cases of repeated mild traumatic brain injury. This is common in boxers or football players. Studies on Alzheimer’s Disease patients show that stimulating cellular energy production, reducing inflammation, and increasing blood flow can help treat neurodegenerative disorders.
In 2016, Dr. Michael Hamblin published an important study that showed that red light therapy treatments promote significant improvements in cognitive performance. This was also specifically in those with traumatic brain injury.
Recovery from Stroke
Near-infrared light therapy treatments provide neuroprotection and help with recovery after moderate to severe ischemic strokes.
The treatment group experienced significant improvements in brain function after just one treatment. 90 days after the stroke, 70% of the treated patients had experienced a successful outcome as compared to 51% of the control group.
Sleep disorders are linked to loss of cognitive function.
In one study, elite female basketball players received red light during a study on the effects of red light on sleep and subsequent athletic performance.
The treatment increased melatonin secretion leading to better sleep and improved athletic performance.
Improved Cerebral Blood Flow
Wherever there are damaged brain cells, increased cerebral blood flow can support the body's self-healing mechanisms. Red light therapy stimulates cerebral blood flow by promoting an increase in nitric oxide.
This is a vasodilator that promotes greater cerebral blood flow, increasing brain oxygenation in neurons. Red light therapy also stimulates the growth of endothelial cells that make up blood vessel walls, and it protects blood cells from inflammation.
Enhanced Brain Cell Function and Regeneration
Reduced cellular performance is a common effect seen in the aging brain. Older adults continue to produce new neurons.
When red and near-infrared light photons absorb into the body, they stimulate metabolic energy production in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are present in every cell in the body, including neurons. When cells are energized, they function more efficiently.
Healthy cells replicate efficiently. In the brain, this process is called neurogenesis. Supporting neurogenesis is important when treating neurodegenerative disorders, stroke, or traumatic brain injuries.
Healthy cells also communicate efficiently. A 2018 study on Parkinson’s disease showed that red light therapy stimulates synaptogenesis. This is the communication between neurons. In the brain, this influences neuroplasticity, which in turn improves the ability to learn. According to the study’s authors, synaptogenesis is a direct result of improved mitochondrial function.
Red light therapy has a stimulating effect on the mitochondria to produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), or cellular fuel. This supports the ability of brain cells to protect themselves from damage, abnormal cell death called apoptosis, and from oxidative stress, and chronic inflammation.
Greater ATP production could be the first step in ensuring brain health.
Red Light Therapy for Neuroprotection
Red light therapy can be viewed as a light-based antioxidant with neuroprotective effects that help ensure proper mitochondrial function and brain health.
This suggests that red light therapy could be used to treat degenerative brain disorders associated with mitochondrial dysfunction as well.
Increased Production of Neuronal Stem Cells
Red light therapy stimulates the production of stem cells in bone marrow, the gut, the brain, and elsewhere in the body.
These unspecialized cells or ‘master cells’ mobilize to the site of an injury, cell death, or dysfunction.
In the case of the brain, stem cells develop into specialized brain cells. These include neurons, oligodendrocytes, and astrocytes.
Chronic inflammation in the brain is linked to many degenerative brain diseases, cognitive decline and dementia in the elderly, and psychological disorders. One of the most well-studied effects of red light therapy is its ability to reduce inflammation, which then improves mitochondrial functioning.
In 2019, red light therapy expert Michael R. Hamblin wrote that this natural treatment reduces inflammation in neurons.
How to Use Red Light Therapy for Brain Health
We recommend seeking full-body treatment for up to 20 minutes per day.
The BIOMAX 900 allows for simultaneous direct and indirect treatment of the brain.
The duration of your session is less important than consistency because cells throughout the body and brain cells are constantly turning over.
Consistent treatment lets you support existing and emerging cells in every phase of their lives.
Innovations in RLT: The BIOMAX Panels
The PlatinumLED BIOMAX series panels are the industry leaders. These medical-grade light therapy devices deliver the most powerful light output in their power class. They offer a combination of six wavelengths, including 480nm blue light.
Red light therapy is a scientifically-backed and widely accepted treatment for relief from neuropathy, arthritis joint pain, wound healing, sacroiliac joint pain, low back pain, muscle recovery, chronic skin disorders, hair loss, weight loss, and anti-aging, just to name a few.
The BIOMAX Series panels can also be adjusted to select wavelength intensity and to turn on and off different wavelength spectrums, including N+, NIR+ and 480nm blue light treatment.
Check out the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights BIOMAX series light therapy devices to see which one will work best for you.