Red light therapy can help dementia. Don’t take my word for it. Here are 6 scientific studies showing massive improvement after red light therapy. Dementia patients feel better, cry less, hug more and remember better.
Red light therapy helps dementia symptoms by fueling biological energy factories. The photons land in the mitochondria, the energy factories for our brain and body, and by dilating blood vessels that bring nutrition and oxygen to tissue for healing.
Studies even show amyloid plaque reductions which correlate with better speech, balance and memory.
Two Ways Red Light Therapy Helps Dementia
By fueling our energy factories and also dilating blood vessels, red light therapy reduces symptoms of dementia. The severity drops, and often diagnoses drop from severe to medium dementia, or from medium dementia to mild dementia.
#1: Red Light Therapy Fuels Our Biological Energy Factories
Photons (light) from red light therapy lamps absorb in the mitochondria. These are the cell parts that make biological energy. Dementia, incuding Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, is associated with impaired mitochondrial function.
When mitochondria are damaged or go dormant, the functions of life slow down. There is no life without functioning mitochondria to energize the body.
The photons energize the mitochondria to output adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecules that carry biological energy throughout the body and brain. When the cell needs energy, it breaks open an ATP molecule to get it. Red light therapy helps the mitochondria to make more of this energy molecule.
Contrary to the pictures in most biology books, there are actually thousands of mitochondria in some cells, such as the neurons that make up brian cells. The heart cells have thousands of mitochondria.One fifth of the liver’s mass consists of energy-producing mitochondria organelles.
Red light therapy is the delivery of red and infrared photons in the correct quantity to trigger energy production cycles in the mitochondria. A red light therapy device has the capacity to energize any and all of the body’s 10 trillion mitochondria organelles.
Whereas drug therapy modifies biology to create the desired effect, red light therapy powers the cellular energy factories that disease or age have shut down. It turns on the lights, allowing the body to heal itself.
This is why red light therapy has so many positive effects on so many profoundly different biological functions. The same device that can reduce acne and heal wounds can create neural connections in impaired brains.
Red light therapy doesn’t change cellular structures. It returns mitochondria to the energy-production state that existed before systems started to break down.
#2: Red Light Therapy Restores Blood Flow
What Happens to the Brain Under the Light?
In a review of the effects of red light therapy on the brain, Dr. Michael Hamblin lists the proven and speculative theories as to why brain lights have such profound effects. These include:
- improved metabolic functioning occurs in the mitochondria, increasing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and reducing oxidative stress
- increased cerebral blood flow and oxygenation possibly triggered by the release of nitric oxide, resulting in oxygenation, nutrition and vascular smoothing (decrease atherosclerosis)
- neuroprotective effects protecting cells from early death, toxins and free radicals
- photobiomodulation improves a paradoxical “good” oxidative stress necessary to gain benefits from exercise, as an example; the reactive oxygen species act as messengers rather than as free radicals
- anti-inflammatory effects from the inhibition of cyclo-oxygenas meaning that photobiomodulation has a similar effect as Ibuprofen
- neurogenesis was first detected in photobiomodulation in 2006 and has since developed into a traumatic brain injury treatment using only light therapy
- synaptogenesis occurs when photobiomodulation up-regulates brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which is exactly the opposite of what happens in Alzheimer and concussive brains
- stem cell production is an unproven photobiomodulation theory
- gamma rhythms are brain waves that occur during wakefulness and concentration, which are two problem areas in dementia patients. 40 Hz pulsed light entrains the brain waves and subsequently “wakes” the subject.
Light Restores Energy in Neurologically Damaged Tissues
Red and infrared photons increase ATP production, which may be a significant reason red light therapy is so effective in restoring brain health.
Light Increases Blood Vessel Health and Blood Flow
Arteries are made of smooth muscle cells. A major effect of nitric oxide is to relax these cells, opening up and freeing blood flow through the arteries. When red light therapy triggers this action in the brain, more areas of the brain receive fresh blood and its nutrients.
Light Promotes Synapse and Neuron Generation
Contrary to what many of us learned in high school, neurological tissue can grow after injury and illness.
Photobiomodulation increases brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), the mediator for synapse and neuron generation. This means red light therapy increases the communication between cells because it allows neural tissue to grow (neurons) and communicate (synapses).
Learn more and get the references for these actions in Dr. Berman’s latest photobiomodulation dementia study in the Journal of Aging and Disease.
6 Brain Light Studies Confirm Dementia and Concussion Relief
Published studies consistently confirm that red light therapy has profoundly positive effects on the body and brain.
Treated dementia subjects score higher on cognitive tests, fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, express positive emotions, and show affection.
Post-Treatment Cognitive Test Scores Improve as Much as 65%
Sixty patients enrolled in the infrared light therapy for dementia study conducted by the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Baylor University, and Dr. Marvin Berman’s Quiet Mind Foundation in Philadelphia.
Dementia Patients Received Infrared for 8 Weeks
The subjects were about 75 years old.
Researchers administered several neurological tests before and after red light therapy treatment. Caregivers assisted or subjects self-treated at home. Treatments took place at home using a 1070 nm infrared helmet to deliver the therapeutic light. The helmet delivered light to the scalp and to closed eyes. The placebo group used a helmet emitting non-therapeutic wavelengths.
There were two treatments per day, each 6 minutes, and the study lasted 8 weeks.
“Mini Mental State Exam” Scores Improved 21%
The light therapy group scored 21% higher on the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE). The placebo group gained 6%, but the increase was not statistically significant.
The Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) tests situational awareness with questions such as:
- What is the date today?
- What is the season?
- What day of the week is it?
- What town, country and state are we in?
- What is the name of this place?
- What floor of the building are we on?
- I’m going to name 3 objects… repeat them back to me…
- I am going to spell a word…spell it backwards…
- What are the three objects (from question 7)
- What is this called (point to watch)
- What is this called (point to pencil)
- (check for enunciation when the subject repeats the phrase): “No ifs, ands, or buts.”
- Please read the following and do what it says (card says “Please close your eyes.”)
- Please write a sentence (hand the subject a paper and pen).
- Please copy this drawing (drawing of overlapping pentagons)
- Fold a piece of paper
Treated Subjects Scored 39% Higher on the Logical Memory Test I
The treated group scored 39% higher on the Logical Memory Test I (LMT-I). The placebo groups score dropped 19%.
In the LMT-I, the researchers read a story and ask the subject for the story’s details. Because people often remember concepts rather than facts, the answers do not have to be exact.
For example, in the LMT-I, the main character’s name is Anna. Researchers also accepted Anna, Annie and Annette. Researchers gave zero points for remembering “Anna” as “Angela” or “Allison.”
In this story, the main character experienced a robbery. When the researcher asked the subject about this development, the researchers scored these answers as correct:
- a robbery took place
- she was robbed
- her money was stolen
- they took her money
- someone took her purse
These answers were incorrect:
- she lost her money (she was robbed, she didn’t lose her money)
- somebody took her things (her money was robbed, not her things)
The treated group scored 39% higher after treatment (8.5 score pre-treatment, and 11.8 points post-treatment). The placebo group’s scored dropped 19%.
Light Therapy Subjects Scored up to 65% higher on the Auditory Verbal Learning Tests
The treated group consistently scored higher on the Auditory Verbal Learning Tests (AVLT). The placebo group scored some gains, but these were not statistically significant.
Here is an over-simplified copy of the auditory test:
“I am going to read a list of words. Listen carefully, for when I stop you are to repeat back as many words as you can remember. It doesn’t matter in what order you repeat them, just try to remember as many as you can. Go ahead.”
“Now I am going to read the same words again, and once again, when I stop I want you to tell me as many words as you can remember, including words you said the first time. It doesn’t matter in what order you say them, just say as many words as you can remember, whether or not you said them before. Go ahead.”
“Now I am going to read a second list of words. Listen carefully, for when I stop you are to repeat back as many words as you can remember. It doesn’t matter in what order you repeat them, just try to remember as many as you can. Go ahead.”
“Now tell me all the words you can remember from the first list, the list I repeated a number of times. Go ahead.”
Just looking at this test makes me want to shine light on my brain.
#2: How Six Red Light Therapy Devices Helped Gulf War Illness Victims
Researchers tested these devices on Gulf War Illness/Chronic Multisymptom Illness patients:
- Vielight 633 Red (red )
- Vielight 655 Prime (red)
- Vielight 810 (infrared)
- Thor Helmet (red)
- Thor Helmet (infrared)
- Photomedex Helmets (infrared)
In this study, the researchers tested red and infrared light on patients who had Gulf War Illness or a similar illness called Chronic Multisymptom Illness. The subjects had severe headaches, gastrointestinal problems, PTSD, short attention span, and anxiety.
Subjects treated with red and infrared light scored significantly higher on cognitive tests after 8 weeks of treatment.
This group also reported better ability to focus, better sleep, fewer physical complaints, less fatigue, reduced gastrointestinal complaints, and reduced PTSD severity.
Transcranial Photobiomodulation to Improve Cognition in Gulf War Illness published in the January 2021 issues of Frontiers in Neurology
#3: Dementia Patients Stopped Wandering after 12 Weeks of Brain Light
Researchers tested the Vielight Neuro Alpha and the Neuro 810 on five mild to moderately severe dementia patients. The Alpha shines light on four head targets and up the nose. The light pulses at 10 Hz, which is consistent with the relaxation and sleep brain wave state. The Vielight 810 also pulses at 10 Hz, but works at about 50% of the power delivered by the Neuro Alpha.
Researchers reported that after 12 weeks of treatment, the subjects wandered less, slept better, had fewer angry outbursts, and expressed less anxiety.
#4: MRI Images Show More Brain Blood Flow in 79 Year Old Alzheimer’s Patients
Researchers tested the Vielight Neuro Gamma red light therapy device on Alzheimer’s patients averaging 79 years of age. Pre-test Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale – Cognitive scores were high, indicating many dementia symptoms. MRI images showed decreased brain blood flow.
After 12 weeks on the Neuro Gamma, the patients had measurably more blood flow in the brain, and much lower (better) Alzheimer’s assessment scores.
Effects of Home Photobiomodulation Treatments on Cognitive and Behavioral Function, Cerebral Perfusion, and Resting-State Functional Connectivity in Patients with Dementia: A Pilot Trial
#5: Parkinson’s Balance, Walking Improved after 40 Hz Pulsed Infrared Treatment
Researchers tested red light therapy on Parkinson’s patients. Devices used included the Vielight Neuro Gamma that delivers infrared pulsed at 40 Hz. Treatment areas included the neck, head, nose, and abdomen. The group treated for 25 weeks did as well as a group treated for 40 weeks.
Testing showed significant gains in subjects’ ability to stand, walk, turn, sit, carry water, and count backwards by two. Subjects relied on balance aids less and had longer strides per step.
Improvements in clinical signs of Parkinson’s disease using photobiomodulation: a prospective proof-of-concept study
#6: Red Light Therapy Eased Brain Injury Symptoms after Hockey Player’s 6th Concussion
Researchers treated a hockey player with Vielight Neuro Alpha and Neuro Gamma red light therapy devices. The Gamma pulses light at 40 Hz. The Alpha pulses at 10 Hz. Both devices deliver 810 nm of infrared light through the nose and skull.
This player had just experienced his sixth concussion. He started with the Gamma after baseline MRI and cognitive testing.
The subject developed a headache. He switched to the Alpha device for one week. The headache resolved, and he switched back to the Gamma device.
After 8 weeks of treatment, most of the subjects’ cogntive test scores improved.
The MRI comparison showed more brain blood flow after photobiomodulation treatments.
Changes in Brain Function and Structure After Self-Administered Home Photobiomodulation Treatment in a Concussion Case published in the October 2019 issue of Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery
Read the rest: Red Light Therapy for Dementia
- Red Light Therapy for Dementia: The Complete Guide, Part 1: Dementia is a Nightmare. Photobiomodulation is the Light.
- Red Light Therapy for Dementia: The Complete Guide, Part 3: Read This Before Buying a Brain Light
- Red Light Therapy for Dementia: The Complete Guide, Part 4