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101 Ways that Red Light Therapy Helps with Dementia

Why are so few dementia blogs talking about red light therapy for depression? Something amazing is happening in dementia research, but no one seems to know about it.

Red light therapy helps with dementia. It reduces depression and anxiety. It improves memory. It increases neural connections. Subjects in studies smile and socialize more after red light therapy.

Multiple red light therapy studies have had remarkable successes decreasing dementia symptoms. One study showed significant reductions in angry outbursts, increased abilities to sleep, and reduced attempts to wander away. Red light therapy is a non-invasive approach to Alzheimer's and other dementias, with few to no side effects, and largely positive effect on brain-based diseases.

Light therapy (or "photobiomodulation" as it's now called) is clinically proven to alleviate symptoms of depression, Parkinson's, dementia and brain injury. It triggers energy production at the cellular level, allowing the brain and body to heal themselves. It promotes vasodilation, which is the opening of the blood vessels. This allows nutrition and oxygen to reach areas that need repair.

Photobiomodulation in the Brain book cover

Photobiomodulation in the Brain

Photobiomodulation in the Brain contains thousands of dementia and brain injury references where red light therapy eased clinical sympoms

In a 2021 red light therapy study on subjects with dementia and Parkinson's, results included:

  • a 21% increase on the mini mental state exam (with questions such as "Where are we?" and "What month is it?")
  • a 20.5% increase in clock drawing skills
  • a 23.5% increase in focus task scores
  • a 35.3% increase in the ability to name everyday objects

 

adult daughter hugging her mother, they are smiling
Red light therapy relieves depression and anxiety of dementia

How Red Light Therapy Helps with Dementia

In this article, I will show you multiple studies using red light therapy to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Then I will show you how to get a red light therapy device designed for dementia therapy at home, without a prescription.

Red Light Therapy for Dementia Disclaimer

Study results show great reductions in emotional and cognitive symptoms of dementia. Red light therapy treats the symptoms, not the disease. Red light therapy does not cure dementia; it makes dementia easier to live with.

 

FDA symbol in blue
No one will make giant profits from red light therapy, because wavelengths of light cannot be patented.

How the FDA Accidentally Hides Red Light Therapy for Dementia

In the US, anyway, government prohibits certain health claims, and this is with good reason. It is to protect people from scammers who say that their device cures disease, when there’s no proof that it does. The rules that protect consumers from bogus claims also accidentally hides good therapy too.

In order to get permission to make health claims about red light therapy, manufacturers need to spend millions on clinical trials. The reason this model works with drugs is patent protection. Patents ensure that drug companies make billions of dollars on their patented molecules. So it’s worth going through multi-million dollar trials to gain the right to market these drugs.

Certain aspects of red light therapy can be patented, such as the delivery system that gets light from the device to the body. But the basic fact of red light therapy is not patentable. Certain wavelengths of light have bioactively positive effects. No one can patent light; therefore, no one can corner the red light therapy market.

In this case, we have Harvard Medical School and Boston University (among dozens of other institutions) repeatedly publishing positive results, but we do not have clinical trials. There are a few companies that will prove their devices have the effects found in the university studies, but the cost benefit ratio is poor compared to doing drug trials.

Government and private agencies fund the science we have so far, but we do not have FDA-approved large clinical trials proving red light therapy’s effects. If the technology were patentable, we’d have had hundreds of studies presented to the FDA, and everyone would have a red light therapy device.

Without the patent-profit motive, we can dismiss the technology, or we can go by the science published in the journals. Over 8,000 papers show red light therapy is effective at reducing inflammation, speeding wound healing, growing hair, and reducing the emotional and cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

In this paper, I will present those studies so that you can decide for yourself is red light therapy is scientifically valid. Obviously, I believe red light therapy is valid, but I understand why people are skeptical. If the evidence convinces you, then I will show you how to purchase devices that use the same technology as those devices used in successful scientific studies.

Read the science, and draw your own conclusions.

Older woman about to throw a green ball during physical therapy
Red light therapy improves motor coordination as well as memory and mood.

How to Find the Brain Light Therapy Science

Since I can't show you 8,000 papers, I will show you how to supplement this science in this article with your own research.

There are three simple ways to pull up the science of light therapy on brain disorders. I use the pubmed.gov National Institutes of Health (NIH) journal article database and Vlad Heiskanen's photobiomodulation database. I documented about 109 studies in the Light Dose Database on my EMFChannel.com website.

To research red light therapy for dementia:

  • use the EMF Channel Light Dose Database lookup tool on my EMFChannel.com website
  • use Vlad Heiskanen's Photobiomodulation Database available for free on Google Sheets
  • Search the NIH database for light therapy brain studies using these queries:
Brain ((photobiomodulation) or ("low level light therapy") or ("low level laser therapy") or ("cold laser")) and brain
Dementia((photobiomodulation) or ("low level light therapy") or ("low level laser therapy") or ("cold laser")) and dementia
Concussion((photobiomodulation) or ("low level light therapy") or ("low level laser therapy") or ("cold laser")) and ((concussion) or ("traumatic brain injury"))
Parkinson's((photobiomodulation) or ("low level light therapy") or ("low level laser therapy") or ("cold laser")) and parkinson's
Depression((photobiomodulation) or ("low level light therapy") or ("low level laser therapy") or ("cold laser")) and depression
Coma((photobiomodulation) or ("low level light therapy") or ("low level laser therapy") or ("cold laser")) and coma
Cerebral Palsy((photobiomodulation) or ("low level light therapy") or ("low level laser therapy") or ("cold laser")) and ("cerebral palsy")
Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery Journal
Laser light shines in columns

The 2014 Red Light Therapy for Brain Health Review

This 2014 review of red light therapy studies is an excellent jumping off point for those who want to read the science for themselves. Dr. Salehpour carefully explains the mechanisms and effects of red light therapy on dementia including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and brain injury. Use the link in the reference to read the review.

Here are just some of the effects that this paper summarizes:

Summary

Meaning

healthy, remote application

Researchers found positive effects on the brain even when the red light was aimed at the gut

posterior head alpha and theta increased amplitude

Healthier brainwave patterns indicate better cognitive functioning

anterior head beta amplitude decrease

Healthier brainwaves

healthy, transcranial application

Infrared light does penetrate to the brain

improved reaction time

Subjects had faster and more accurate physical motions

sustained positive emotional states

Red light therapy relieved the severity of depression and anxiety

reduced motor cortex excitability

Red light therapy reduced the chaos in the brain’s firing patterns

improved executive function

Subjects were better at decision-making

motor-evoked potentials decreased amplitude

Subjects had better fine motor skills

increased short interval cortical inhibition

Subjects were better able to switch tasks

increased left middle cerebral artery systolic and diastolic velocity

More blood and oxygen flowed through the patient’s brains

improved sustained attention

Subjects were better able to focus

improved working memory

Subjects had better memories

increased oxygenated hemoglobin concentration

Subjects had more oxygen in their brains

decreased deoxygenated hemoglobin concentration

Subjects had less oxygen-depleted blood in the brain

improved prefrontal rule based learning

Subjects were better at learning

improved reaction time

Subjects were faster at reacting

improved attentional performance

Subjects were better at focusing

increased cerebral oxidized CCO concentrations

Mitochondria were activated to produce more energy for neural repair

increased total hemoglobin

More blood flowed to tissue for repair

chronic TBI/depression/disorders of consciousness

Subjects with brain injury, depression and injuries that caused unconsciousness responded well to red light therapy

improved executive function

Subjects were better able to make decisions

improved memory

Subjects had better memories

decreased PTSD symptoms

Subjects had less startle response, depression and anxiety

improved sleep quality

Subjects fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer

improved social performance

Subject interacted more with others

improved occupational functions

Subjects were better able to do their jobs

improved headache symptoms

Subjects had fewer or no headaches

decreased sleep disturbance

Subjects had fewer or no nightmares

decreased cognition dysregulation

Subjects were less confused

decreased mood dysregulation

Subjects were less anxious and depressed

decreased anxiety

Subjects were less anxious

decreased irritability

Subjects were less irritable and angry

increased alertness

Subjects were less sleepy

stroke and transcathater applications intentionally left out

Stroke studies are controversial due to one poor study outcome and possible sensitivities in stroke victims. Transcatheter blood therapy was successful but is invasive and therefore not of interested to the home consumer.

Alzheimer’s disease, dementia

Subjects with Alzheimer’s dementia had positive cognitive improvement

improved clock drawing

Subjects who barely drew a circle before treatment were able to draw complete clock faces

improved immediate recall

Subjects had better short term memory

improved praxis memory

Subjects are better gesture, walk, and to manipulate objects at will

improved visual attention

Subjects are better able to focus

improved task switching

Subjects are better able to change focus

improved EEG amplitude

Subject had healthier neural firing

improved connectivity

Subjects had healthier neural connections

decreased angry outbursts

Subjects had fewer angry outbursts

decreased wandering

Subjects wandered less

increased alpha and beta amplitude

Subjects had healthier brainwaves

increased prefrontal blood-oxygen level

Subjects had more oxygen and blood in the prefrontal cortex

Parkinson’s disease

Subjects with Parkinson’s disease had improved motor and cognitive skills

improved balance

Subjects had improved balance

improved gait

Subjects had improved gait

less freezing

Subjects froze less

improved movement

Subjects were better able to move

decreased speech difficulties

Subjects were better able to speak

Major Depressive Disorder

Subjects were less depressed

decreased depression

Subjects were less depressed

depressed anxiety

Subjects were less anxious

Alcoholism

Subjects were better able to abstain from alcohol

decreased depression

Subjects were less depressed

increase endorphins

Subjects had greater quantities of pleasure and pain relief hormones

Aphasia

Subjects were better able to find words

improved comprehension

Subjects were better able to understand

improved picture naming

Subjects were better able to name common objects

Persistent Vegetative State

A coma patient responded to red light therapy by moving a finger

increased cerebral blood flow

Subjects had more brain blood flow

improved neurological outcomes

Subjects had improved neural connectivity

improved alertness

Subjects had improved alertness

Disorders of Consciousness

Red light therapy worked well on subjects who passed out

improved alertness

Subjects were more alert

improved awareness

Subjects were more aware

 

Reference:

Salehpour F, Mahmoudi J, Kamari F, Sadigh-Eteghad S, Rasta SH, Hamblin MR. Brain Photobiomodulation Therapy: a Narrative Review. Mol Neurobiol. 2018 Aug;55(8):6601-6636. doi: 10.1007/s12035-017-0852-4. Epub 2018 Jan 11. PMID: 29327206; PMCID: PMC6041198.

Authors’ affiliations:

  • Harvard Medical School Department of Dermatology
  • Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Wellman Center for Photomedicine
  • Tabriz University of Medical Sciences Department of Medical Bioengineering
  • Tabriz University of Medical Sciences Department of Medical Physics
  • Tabriz University of Medical Sciences Neurosciences Research Center
Mother and daughter touching foreheads
Red light therapy helps dementia patients to be more social.

Vielight Red Light Therapy is Effective for Dementia

Vielight is a company out of Toronto that has more science behind its products than any other red light therapy device one would use to reduce dementia symptoms. Here are some of the studies using their products for brain issues including dementia and brain injury.

Dummy wearing device on head and in nose
The Vielight Neuro Gamma is the preferred red light therapy device for dementia.

The 2019 Vielight Alzheimer’s and Dementia Study

Dr. Linda Chao’s is a neuroimaging researcher at the University of California. Her lab tested the effects of the Vielight Neuro Gamma on four subjects and four controls. This was a pilot study to justify larger subject pools in future subjects.

The average subject age was 79.8 years old. The participants entered the study with Alzheimer’s or other dementia diagnoses.

The researchers administered multiple neuropsychological tests to get a baseline before treatment with Vielight or a sham device for the control group. During treatment, the researchers studied the subjects’ brains using magnetic resonance imaging to measure oxygenation. At the study start, the subjects had substantially equivalent amounts of neural connectivity and oxygen in their brains..

The subjects received Vielight Neuro Gamma treatment three times a week for 12 weeks. At this three month point, researchers administered the neuropsych tests a second time. The control group had a statisically significant decline on their cognitive test scores. Neuroimaging showed their brain connectivity and oxygen were lower than the baseline.

The treatment group scored statistically higher on their neuropsych tests. This group had more neural connectivity, though the change over baseline was not statistically significant. Dr. Chao wrote that the treatment group had “increased functional connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex and lateral parietal nodes within the” default mode network of the brain.

There were no side effects.

Reference:

Chao LL. Effects of Home Photobiomodulation Treatments on Cognitive and Behavioral Function, Cerebral Perfusion, and Resting-State Functional Connectivity in Patients with Dementia: A Pilot Trial. Photobiomodul Photomed Laser Surg. 2019 Mar;37(3):133-141. doi: 10.1089/photob.2018.4555. Epub 2019 Feb 13. PMID: 31050950.

Dr. Chao’s associations at the time of publication:

  • Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases, San Francisco VA Medical Center, San Francisco, California.
  • Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging and University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
  • Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
Older man in blue jacket wearing transcranial headset and intranasal devices
The Neuro Duo is appropriate for Alzheimer's and brain injury in-home treatment without a prescription.

The 2021 Vielight, Irradia and Midcare Parkinson’s Study

Researchers studied the effects of red light therapy on patients with Parkinson’s disease. There were twelve Parkinson’s patients in this study who averaged 67.6 years of age. Six received treatment and six acted as a control group. They received one to three treatments per week, for forty weeks.

Parkinson’s disease normally progresses rapidly, so one would expect significant decline in forty weeks. None of the treated subjects showed the typical declines expected during that time. They not only did not decline, they had improvements in multiple movement and cognitive areas. These included improvements in:

  • balance
  • mobility
  • stepping
  • motor skills
  • walking speed
  • stride length

There were no side effects.

Reference:

Liebert A, Bicknell B, Laakso EL, Heller G, Jalilitabaei P, Tilley S, Mitrofanis J, Kiat H. Improvements in clinical signs of Parkinson’s disease using photobiomodulation: a prospective proof-of-concept study. BMC Neurol. 2021 Jul 2;21(1):256. doi: 10.1186/s12883-021-02248-y. PMID: 34215216; PMCID: PMC8249215.

The authors’ asssociations at the time of publication:

  • Australian Catholic University Health Sciences Department
  • Cardiac Health Institute, Sydney, Australia
  • Griffith University Menzies Health Institute
  • Lymphoedema And Laser Therapy, Stepney, Australia
  • Macquarie University Mathematics and Statistics Department
Artwork of clock on head inside bright red and green circle
Red light therapy helps dementia by energizing mitochondria and dilating blood vessels.

The 2020 Vielight Concussion Case Report

This is a case report, not a clinical study, and of course, it is sponsored. Nevertheless, the results in this case are consistent with results obtained by Naeser, Hamblin, Liebert, Chao and other researchers.

This is the case report of a professional hockey player who had experienced at least six concussions before starting Vielight Neuro Gamma therapy. Co-author Dr. Lew Lim is founder and CEO of Vielight, Inc., and Vielight funded this case report.

“Jean” was a professional hockey player with anxiety, focus and concentration issues. He had previously tried acupuncture and hyperbaric chamber treatments in attempts to lessen the severity of his symptoms. At intake with Dr. Lim, Jean reported not feeling as sharp as he would like.

Dr. Lim started Jean on the Vielight Neuro Gamma, but this appeared to cause mild headaches. Dr. Lim switched Jean to the Vielight Alpha. The Gamma pulsates at 40 Hz, and the Alpha pulsates at 10 Hz. The lower pulsation worked out well for Jean, and caused no more headaches.

Jean self-treated with the Alpha red light therapy device. The total treatment time was 8 weeks before the follow-up. After 2 months of red light therapy pulsed at 10 Hz, Jean’s neuropsych scores went up. Imaging showed increased blood flow through the brain, and increased oxygen as well. Jean had increased gray matter in cortical, frontal lobe, temporal lobe, occipital lobe and hippocampus areas.

Reference:

Chao LL, Barlow C, Karimpoor M, Lim L. Changes in Brain Function and Structure After Self-Administered Home Photobiomodulation Treatment in a Concussion Case. Front Neurol. 2020 Sep 8;11:952. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.00952. PMID: 33013635; PMCID: PMC7509409.

Authors’ affiliations:

  • University of California Radiology Department
  • University of California Biomedical Imaging Department
  • University of California Behavioral Sciences Department
  • San Francisco VA Health Care System Advanced Imaging Research Center
  • Vielight, Inc.
Red light therapy helps dementia patients remember who they are.

The 2017 Vielight Brain Injury improvements Case Studies

This is a case report, not a clinical study, and of course, it is sponsored. Nevertheless, the results in this case are consistent with results obtained by Naeser, Hamblin, Liebert, Chao and other researchers. Co-author Dr. Lew Lim is the founder and CEO of Vielight.

In this study, researchers tested the effects of Vielight Neuro Alpha and Vielight 810 red light therapy on mild and severe dementia patients. Researchers treated patients with the Alpha once a week, and patients self-treated with the 810 every day at home.

The Neuro Alpha is delivers 810 nm infrared light to the head and up the nose. While red light can reach the capillaries above the nostrils, this wavelength of infrared reaches to the frontal cortex. The 810 delivers its light up the nose but not to the head. The combination gave patients four transcranial touch points, and two intranasal applications. Both devices pulse at 10 Hz, which is in the alpha brainwave range.

Researchers assessed the patients after 12 weeks of therapy. Then the patients did no red light therapy for four weeks, and researchers tested them a third time.

This study confirmed that red light therapy effects wear off after a period of no treatment. Five of the subjects experienced severe declines during the no-treatment period. In one case, the patient’s family asked that the patient be put back on the red light therapy. The researchers obliged, but had to remove him from the study.

There were no side effects during this study.

Dementia Patient Scores 30% Higher After Red Light Therapy

“Emma” was a 71-year-old with a severe dementia diagnosis according to the mini mental status exam (MMSE). She reported at intake that her head felt too heavy to hold up, and that she had a headache.

Emma’s caregiver described Emma as anxious. Emma did not want to clean, cook, or interact with her family. The assessor noted that Emma did not initiate conversation, and appeared apprehensive.

At the second assessment after 3 months of red light therapy, Emma scored 30% higher on the MMSE. This moved her diagnoses from severe dementia to moderate dementia.

Emma reported that her head felt lighter, and her headache had gone away. Emma’s caregiver noted that Emma was volunteering to cook and clean. Emma liked going for walks, and she answered the phone with success, because she was more talkative.

The assessor noted that Emma hugged her upon arriving for her follow-up meeting. The assessor wrote that Emma was smiling.

Without prompting, Emma offered the assessor a recipe that she recalled from memory.

Red Light Therapy Lowers Dementia Diagnosis from Severe to Moderate

“Joe” was a 90-year-old with severe dementia according to his MMSE.

At intake, Joe’s caregiver noted that Joe needed assistance in several areas. This caregiver helped Joe with mobility, dressing, and personal hygiene. The caregiver noted that Joe was incontinent six nights out of seven. Joe spent little to no time with his family.

At the 3-month assessment, Joe took the MMSE a second time. This time he scored “moderate” dementia on the MMSE scale. He spontaneously offered that he was feeling better, and was happier with his caregiver and his family.

Joe’s caregiver said that Joe’s incontinence fell from six nights a week to two. Joe occasionally dressed himself, and spoke with his family.

Joe’s gains fell off during the four-week period of no red light therapy. Joe regressed, and became angry and uncooperative. He needed help dressing and could not follow simple conversations.

Joe’s family asked the researchers to re-start treatment before the 4-week period was finished. The researchers gave Joe a Vielight Neuro Alpha for home use. Joe started treatment again before the no-treatment period was over.

Red Light Therapy Helps Dementia Patient Read and Socialize

“Louis” was a 76-year-old with mild dementia on the MMSE scale. He did not offer any information to the assessor. The caregiver said she was unsure of the quality of Louis’ memory. The assessor noted that Louis denied having memory issues. Louis said that he read and listened to the news.

After 12 weeks of Vielight Alpha and 810 red light therapy, Louis admitted that he had experienced memory issues. In other words, he remembered that he had been forgetting.

Louis said that the post-treatment neuropsychology tests questions were easier to answer this time. Louis’ caregiver noted that Louis started socializing and reading more during the red light therapy treatment time.

Louis had a foot ulcer in week 10, which the assessor felt impaired Louis’ cognitive gains. Louis’ MMSE did rise from 21 to 23.

Red Light Therapy Helps Dementia Patient Return to Art Hobbies

“Michael” was a 72-year-old with mild dementia. He had not engaged in his artistic hobbies, and agreed when asked that he had been more forgetful lately.

Michael’s caregiver described Michael as someone who used to be outgoing and humorous. He now seemed less happy, and was becoming more forgetful. Michael still drove, but only on familiar roads.

The caregiver stated that Michael often misplaced items around the home. However, he was still able to cook, and he had a part-time job.

After three months of Vielight therapy, Michael’s MMSE score rose from 22 to 24, reducing the severity of his dementia diagnosis. Michael reported that he had resumed his sculpture artwork. The caregiver noted that Michael was less forgetful, less dependent, and generally happier.

Of the eight subjects in this report, Michael was the only subject who did not lose his gains during the four-week no-treatment period.

Vielight Red Light Therapy Restores Color to Dementia Patient’s World

“Pablo” was a 73-year-old with mild dementia. He said he lived a full life with his wife, but that his future felt scary.

The assessor noted that Pablo was aware of his memory loss, as he remarked on the difficulty he was having with the neuropsychological tests.

After twelve weeks of therapy, Pablo’s MMSE rose from 24 to 28 points. He said his world had “more color,” and that he remembered tasks better.

During the red light therapy treatment period, Pablo returned to helping his wife in the garden, and he resumed his hobby of oil painting.

Pablo’s caregiver was pleased with Pablo’s changes. The assessor noted that Pablo was less hesitant during testing, and showed his sense of humor.

Reference:

Saltmarche AE, Naeser MA, Ho KF, Hamblin MR, Lim L. Significant Improvement in Cognition in Mild to Moderately Severe Dementia Cases Treated with Transcranial Plus Intranasal Photobiomodulation: Case Series Report. Photomed Laser Surg. 2017 Aug;35(8):432-441. doi: 10.1089/pho.2016.4227. Epub 2017 Feb 10. PMID: 28186867; PMCID: PMC5568598.

Authors’ affiliations:

  • Boston University School of Medicine Department of Neurology
  • Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Saltmarche Health & Associates, Inc., Orangeville, Ontario, Canada.
  • VA Boston Healthcare System
  • STAT-TU, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • Vielight, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital
Pencil eraser erasing drawing of person's head
By removing plaque and tangled proteins, red light therapy helps dementia patients with memory and emotion.

About the Vielight Neuro Dementia Therapy Device

The Vielight Neuro has three models. The Alpha pulses at 10 Hz; the Gamma pulses at 40 Hz; and the Duo pulses at either frequency. All deliver 810 nm infrared through the head and up the nose.

Red light is helpful for dementia, but infrared is better. The 810 nm wavelength is particularly good at penetrating the skull and blood vessels to reach the brain tissue. The pulsation rates create brainwave entrainment, meaning that the neurons start firing at the same pace as the pulsation.

Dementia patients are usually deficient in Gamma brainwaves, which is why the 40 Hz works so well with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Brain injury patients are usually sensitive to light pulsation, which is why the 10 Hz is more comfortable for these users.

Dummy wearing device on head and in nose
The Vielight Neuro Gamma is the preferred red light therapy device for dementia.
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