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 by reducing depression and anxiety, increasing neural connections, improving memory and speech, and increasing the ability to socialize. These are just 6 of the 101 ways that red light therapy helps with dementia.
Many Red Light Therapy Studies Have Had Outstanding Success in Helping with Dementia
Multiple red light therapy studies have had remarkable successes in decreasing dementia symptoms.
One study showed significant reductions in angry outbursts, increased abilities to sleep, and reduced attempts to wander away.
Red light therapy (referred to as “photobiomodulation” in science) is a non-invasive approach to Alzheimer’s and other dementias, with few to no side effects, and largely positive effects on brain-based diseases.
Dementia is the Nightmare. Photobiomodulation is the Light
The “light” in this case is red but mainly infrared wavelengths around 810 nm. Several other wavelengths work, but 810 nm is highly absorbed in water, so is the current focus of the studies.
Photobiomodulation is now clinically proven to alleviate symptoms of depression, Parkinson’s, dementia and brain injury.
It does this by absorbing in the mitochondria inside the cells where it fixes the electron transport chain responsible for turning food energy into “biological batteries” that power brain tissue repair.
Then the mitochondria let off nitric oxide that dilates blood vessels to bring nutrition and oxygen to brain tissues as well.
Next, the mitochondria signal the cell nucleus to shut down the chronic inflammation that puts the brain in a constant state of disease.
If pharmaceutical companies had dementia results like these, it would be headlines all over the world.Dr. Larry Carr, University of Utah researcher and former NFL player
Photobiomodulation in the Brain contains thousands of dementia and brain injury references in which red light therapy eased clinical symptoms.
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
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.
How the FDA Accidentally Hides Red Light Therapy for Dementia
In the US, anyway, the 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 hide 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 university studies, but the cost-benefit ratio is poor compared to drug trials.
Government, private agencies, and private companies 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 we do have because the results are compelling.
As of July 2022, there are at least 1,175 randomized controlled trials (opens at pubmed.gov in a new browser window) on the effects of low-level light therapy, and the overwhelming majority have positive results. There are at least 8,014 papers about photobiomodulation/cold laser/low-level light therapy/low lever laser therapy, yet only a small population understands how important this technology actually is.
Photobiomodulation reduces inflammation, speeds wound healing, grows hair, reduces emotional distress, and improves cognition and memory.
Photobiomodulation removes amyloid plaques and tangled tau proteins.
In this paper, I will present those studies so that you can decide for yourself if 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.
Red light therapy that reduces dementia symptoms is available over the counter, without a prescription, for at-home use.
Read the science, and draw your own conclusions.
How to Find the Brain Light Therapy Science
Since I can’t summarize 8,014 papers in one article, I will show you how to supplement this paper you’re reading 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:
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:
|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 the 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||The 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 transcatheter 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 interest 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 at gesturing, walking, and at manipulating 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||The 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|
Vielight Red Light Therapy is Effective for Dementia
Vielight is a Toronto brain light company. There is more science behind their Neuro devices than there is for any other dementia or brain injury red light therapy device.
Read about the studies below, or view my Vielight product guide (opens on this website)
Here are some of the studies using their products for brain issues including dementia and brain injury.
The 2019 Vielight Alzheimer’s and Dementia Study
Dr. Linda Chao 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.
In 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 neuro-psych tests a second time. The control group had a statistically significant decline in their cognitive test scores. Neuroimaging showed their brain connectivity and oxygen were lower than the baseline.
The treatment group scored statistically higher on their neuro-psych 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.
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 a significant decline in forty weeks. None of the treated subjects showed the typical declines expected during that time. They not only did not decline, but they also had improvements in multiple movement and cognitive areas. These included improvements in:
- motor skills
- walking speed
- stride length
There were no side effects.
The 2020 Vielight Concussion Case Report
Notice: 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 the 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 an attempt 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 neuro-psych scores went up. Imaging showed increased blood flow through the brain, and increased oxygen as well. Jean had increased gray matter in the cortical, frontal lobe, temporal lobe, occipital lobe, and hippocampus areas.
The 2017 Vielight Brain Injury Improvements Case Studies
Notice: 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 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 the frontal cortex. The 810 delivers light to the brain.
The combination gave patients four transcranial touchpoints 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. Subjects had statistically significant improvements in mood and neuro psych scores.
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 diagnosis 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 restart 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 to 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 test 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.
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.
View my Vielight product guide here. (Opens on this site in a new window)
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 10 Hz is more comfortable for these users.
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.
- 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
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.
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’ associations 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
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.
- The 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
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.
- 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
- Vielight, Inc.