Can Light Therapy Improve Cognitive Function?

Our brain is a crucial organ in our body that performs the cognitive functions which define us as humans9,17. When cells inside of our brain become hindered by inflammation and reduce our cognitive function, our overall health suffers8,10,16,17.Scientists have found that Light Therapy can help us overcome natural cognitive decline from disease or aging, improving our memory, enhancing our ability to learn, and helping us feel happier and healthier1-4,6-8.11,14,16. Lighthouse Health is expert in the science of Light Therapy, and wants to share its many benefits with you!

Cognitive Function and our Brains

The brain is the control center of our body, allowing us to interact with the world around us9,17. Each human’s brain is composed of billions of cells called neurons, which constantly transmit electrical and chemical signals to and from each other throughout our nervous system17. By constantly transmitting signals, our brains are able to automatically monitor and manage critical life functions like keeping our hearts beating and our lungs breathing9,17. Beyond those essential functions, our brains are advanced enough to perform complex tasks, including learning and remembering information, feeling and understanding emotion, and synthesizing knowledge to solve problems and make decisions9,10,17 These complex tasks are collectively known as cognitive function10.
Cognitive function allows us to thrive in a complex world that comes with many opportunities and challenges9,10. However, we can suffer from reduced cognitive function due to brain inflammation from aging or disease14-16. This inflammation can lead to worse memory, difficulty thinking, and feeling sad and angry more often than normal14-16. Researchers have found that Light Therapy could be a way to boost cognitive function, heal our brains from inflammation and injury, and maintain our health1- 4,6-8.11,14,16.

Light Therapy can boost cognitive function by the process of photobiomodulation — where red and near-infrared light applied to the body reduces inflammation and promotes cellular health2,5,6. Billions of neurons constantly talking to each other requires a lot of energy, and because of this, our brains can be highly sensitive to reactive oxygen species (ROS) buildup2,5-7,14-16. Scientists have found that specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light can safely pass through the skull and reach the brain, neutralizing ROS buildups and reducing harmful inflammation2,5,6. As a result, scientists see the technology as a potential treatment for brain inflammation, thereby restoring and enhancing cognitive function1 -4,6-8.11,14,16.

“The team at Lighthouse Health is here to help navigate the science of brain inflammation and cognitive decline.”

Here are four of the specific ways that Light Therapy can play a role in boosting your cognitive function:

1. Light Therapy can boost cognitive function across the board — attention, memory, and mood. Many researchers have found that applying Light Therapy can help improve memory, help us hold our attention for longer, and improve our ability to learn new information1-3,8. Additionally, many studies have shown that Light Therapy can help us clear out inflammation that makes us sad or angry, improving our overall mood1,2,4. These studies show that Light Therapy, when applied properly by experts like the team at Lighthouse Health, has great potential to become an effective treatment when that boosts multiple aspects of cognitive function simultaneously 1-4,8.

2. Light Therapy can help slow the harmful effects of aging on cognitive decline — as we age, our brain suffers from increased chronic inflammation, and in turn, naturally loses some capacity for cognitive function4,8. Cognitive decline with age can result in memory loss, confusion, and slower problem-solving4,8. Across several studies, Light Therapy alleviates these symptoms in older folks, helping to slow and even reverse the adverse effects of age on cognitive function 4,8.

3. Light Therapy can provide relief to those suffering from Alzheimer's, Disease — Alzheimer's disease is an aggressive disease that deteriorates the parts of the brain associated with memory and learning 13. One of the primary biological markers of Alzheimer's disease is extreme brain inflammation and ROS buildup6,8,13,15. Researchers have found that Light Therapy can slow the rate of brain deterioration by reducing damaging inflammation and ROS associated with Alzheimer’s, leading to improved memory and offering relief for a currently incurable disease 6,8,13,15.

4. Light Therapy can help heal Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) — When we suffer from injuries to our heads, we suffer from reduced cognitive function 6,8,11,12. For example, athletes with repeated contact injuries are much more likely to suffer from TBI, leading to worse memory, learning difficulties, and emotional instability 6,8,11,12. Several studies have shown that Light Therapy can help heal brain injuries resulting from TBI in athletes, military members who have been in combat incidents, and drivers who have been in car accidents 6,8,11,12. Light Therapy can help relieve inflammation and damage from TBI at the cellular level, restoring cognitive function to pre-injury levels 6,8,11,12.

Lighthouse Health: Experts in Light Therapy and Technology
We keep up on the latest research on Light Therapy to improve cognitive function, from improving memory and mood to slowing the negative effects of aging. Keep up with our educational content to find out how else Light Therapy can improve your health. To experience the benefits of Light Therapy for yourself, book a session with Lighthouse Health today! Follow us on social media here; we are always happy to talk and see what the best applications of Light Therapy could be for you.

1. Barrett, D. W., & Gonzalez-Lima, F. (2013). Transcranial infrared laser stimulation produces beneficial cognitive and emotional effects in humans. Neuroscience, 230, 13–23.
2. Blanco, N. J., Maddox, W. T., & Gonzalez-Lima, F. (2017). Improving executive function using transcranial infrared laser stimulation. Journal of Neuropsychology, 11(1), 14–25.
3. Blanco, N. J., Saucedo, C. L., & Gonzalez-Lima, F. (2017). Transcranial infrared laser stimulation improves rule-based, but not information-integration, category learning in humans. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 139, 69–75.
4. Chan, A. S., Lee, T. L., Yeung, M. K., & Hamblin, M. R. (2019). Photobiomodulation improves the frontal cognitive function of older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34(2), 369–377.
5. de Freitas, L. F., & Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Proposed Mechanisms of Photobiomodulation or Low-Level Light Therapy. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics: A Publication of the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society, 22(3).
6. Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders. BBA Clinical, 6, 113–124.
7. Henderson, T. A., & Morries, L. D. (2015). Near-infrared photonic energy penetration: Can infrared phototherapy effectively reach the human brain? Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 11, 2191–2208.
8. Hennessy, M., & Hamblin, M. R. (2017). Photobiomodulation and the brain: A new paradigm. Journal of Optics (2010), 19(1), 013003.
9. Information, N. C. for B., Pike, U. S. N. L. of M. 8600 R., MD, B., & Usa, 20894. (2018). How does the brain work? In [Internet]. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).
10. Kiely, K. M. (2014). Cognitive Function. In A. C. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research (pp. 974–978). Springer Netherlands.
11. Naeser, M. A., & Hamblin, M. R. (2015). Traumatic Brain Injury: A Major Medical Problem That Could Be Treated Using Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared LED Photobiomodulation. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, 33(9), 443–446.
12. Naeser, M. A., Zafonte, R., Krengel, M. H., Martin, P. I., Frazier, J., Hamblin, M. R., Knight, J. A., Meehan, W. P., & Baker, E. H. (2014). Significant Improvements in Cognitive Performance Post-Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Treatments in Chronic, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Open-Protocol Study. Journal of Neurotrauma, 31(11), 1008–1017.
13. Nagy, E. N., Ali, A. Y., Behiry, M. E., Naguib, M. M., & Elsayed, M. M. (2021).


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