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Red Light Therapy for Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 11 million people provide unpaid care for Alzheimer’s patients. Many caregivers read Senior Home Central, so I want to give you a new tool that can help you and your patient.

Red Light Therapy (RLT) is the use of light for health. Several published studies show that RLT improves mood, memory, and cognition. Some case studies using RLT on Alzheimer’s patients discussed how much easier life was for caregivers after their patients received RLT.

Red light therapy is now available in home devices. The quality improvement and price decline in light emitting diodes (LEDs) has created an explosion of offerings for home use.

Terms used in this article: The consumer market calls the treatment “red light therapy.” The official name for it is photobiomodulation (PBM), or the use of light to change the body. It’s also known as cold laser and low level light therapy (LLLT). 633 nm means 633 nanometers. Nanometers are billionths of a meter. Red is 620 to 750 nm. Infrared is 750 nm to 1200 nm.

Red Light Brain Therapy

Red light therapy for dementia: worried man and wife

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Photobiomodulation (PBM) (aka Red Light Therapy) has multiple positive effects on the brain[1]. The downside exists, but it’s tiny compared to the benefits. PBM:

  • enables neurons to consume more oxygen
  • triggers an anti-inflammatory response
  • triggers an anti-oxidant response
  • prevents programmed cell death
  • encourages neuron creation
  • supports synaptic health
  • improves cerebral blood flow

PBM is has a therapeutic effect on several brain disorders, including:

How “Systemic” PBM Relieves Depression

Applying light therapy to one area of the body can have profound effects in other parts of the body. The systemic effect occurs when treatment in one part of the body positively affects other parts of the body. It refers to the fact that the application of red light therapy increases the body’s energy, oxygen, vessel dilation, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant responses. In doing that, it improves the health of the entire system.

Vielight 810 Infrared Red Light Therapy
Vielight 810 Infrared Red Light Therapy

In one study, researchers applied PBM to the thighs of depressed patients and their depression scores improved. Applying PBM to the neck decreases alcohol addiction symptoms.

The Best Red Light Therapy Device for Brain-Related Problems

Vielight is a photobiomodulation device company that focuses on creating brain therapy devices. Vielight invented and patented using nasal applicators to send light up the nose. It looks silly, but it’s amazingly effective. Depending on the model, the light reaches a thick blood flow area, or passes through that and reaches up to 40 cm into the brain.

Vielight Neuro Gamma red light therapy device
Vielight Neuro Gamma red light therapy device

Does Light Get Through the Hair, Bone and Blood to the Brain?

A “transcranial” device delivers light to the brain through the head. The question always comes up, “Can light really make it from the scalp to the brain?” The hair does absorb a lot of energy. It’s important to get as much of it out of the way as you can. In practice, when a person does have hair, the LED module can get up to 4% of the light to the brain. This seems like only a small amount, but it is still a therapeutic dose.

Getting light to the brain through the hair is the most difficult route. A transcranial device can also deliver light to the brain through the forehead. There is no hair here to get in the way, so more light get through to the brain.

Does Light Make it to the Brain Through the Nasal Passage?

By far the best method to get light to the brain is through the nasal passage. Vielight patented the use of a nasal applicator to shine therapeutic light this way.

Vielgiht 655 Prime red light therapy device
Vielgiht 655 Prime red light therapy device

The Vielight 633 Red and Vielight 655 Prime devices do shine light up the nose, but only as far as the blood vessel network above the nose. These are “systemic” lights because they create healthy responses throughout the body. They affect the brain as an afterthought rather than as a direct consequence of their use in therapy.

Vielight X-Plus red light therapy device
Vielight X-Plus red light therapy device

The Vielight 810 Infrared, X-Plus, Neuro Alpha and Neuro Gamma shine 810 nm infrared up the nasal passage. Researchers have studied the light passage from the nasal applicator to the brain and found that the light penetrates as far as 40 cm into the brain through this passage when using the 810 nm wavelength.

How the Vielight Reduced Dementia Anger, Wandering and Anxiety

Researchers published a Vielight study in a 2017 volume of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. They gave five dementia patients therapy with Vielight 810 Infrared and Vielight Neuro Alpha devices.

Red light therapy for dementia: woman and manThe Velight 810 Infrared is an intranasal device that sends infrared light up the nose to the brain. The Vielight Neuro Alpha also sends light up the nose, as well as to four points on the head.

Vielight 633 Red red light therapy device
Vielight 633 Red red light therapy device

The nasal and head lights pulsed at 10 Hz, or 10 times per second. A pulse of 10 Hz corresponds with alpha brainwaves. These are the waves the brain outputs when it is in a relaxed state.

After 12 weeks using the Vielight 810 and Vielight Neuro Alpha devices, the dementia patients showed objective improvement on many levels. These improvements included:

  • improved sleep and less insomnia
  • reduction in emotional problems such as angry outbursts
  • less verbal anxiety and anxious behavior
  • reduced wandering

How the Vielight Relieved Caregiver Stress with Her Cognitively Impaired Patient

In a 2018 study published in Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery, researcher described the improvements in a patient with neurodegenerative damage. The patient also had difficulty with the sense of smell, and “quality of life” measures.

The researchers administered cognitive tests to get a baseline on the patient’s status. They tested her cognitive abilities, her working memory, her ability to sense smell, and quality of life. They treated the patient with various PBM Vielight prototype devices. The twice per day treatment included a combination of these modalities:

  • 633 red light in the nose, continuous wave (not pulsed)
  • 810 infrared light in the nose, continuous wave
  • 810 infrared light to the head using a helmet, continuous wave
  • 810 infrared light to the back, continuous wave
  • 810 infrared light to the nose, pulsed at 10 Hz

After two days and four treatments, the researchers gave the patients standardized cognitive function tests. The patient’s ability to think improved. Her ability to recall events improved. Her sense of smell returned. Her quality of life measurements improved. The caregiver reported that she felt less stress taking care of the patient.

Red light therapy for dementia: woman struggling with puzzlePhotobiomodulation for Alzheimer’s Disease: Has the Light Dawned?

Dr. Michael Hamblin published a review of Alzheimer’s PBM treatment in his 2019 article in the journal Photonics: Photobiomodulation for Alzheimer’s Disease: Has the Light Dawned?

In this review, Dr. Hamblin summarizes the PBM Alzheimer’s studies to date, and the proposed and known mechanisms of light therapy on the brain.

Dr. Hamblin explains that red light therapy has a significant scientific history in multiple areas of brain health. The benefits include increases in:

  • angiogenesis: an increase in blood vessels supporting the brain
  • anti-oxidant: a decrease in free radicals that harm the brain
  • anti-inflammatory: a decrease in inflammation harming the brain
  • neurogenesis: an increase in neurons making up the brain
  • synaptogenesis: an increase in the ability of the cells to communicate
  • stem cells: a potential (unproven) that the light positively affects brain stem cells
  • gamma rhythms: an ability of the brain to sync itself with into a gamma brainwave state of 40 Hz, increasing the ability to think and remember

Dr. Hamblin has published 606 scientific papers and is the Principle Investigator at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a professor at Harvard Medical School. He strongly advocates using PBM for brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“The fact that PBMT [‘photobiomodulation,’ or light therapy] may produce a large range of beneficial changes in the brain, and is without any major side-effects, suggests it should be more widely tested for AD [Alzheimer’s Disease] and dementia in large controlled trials. Exposing the head to light at power levels less than that received in direct sunlight (but without harmful ultraviolet wavelengths) is intrinsically safe. Any side-effects reported have been rare, mild and transient, consisting of slight headache, difficult sleeping and mild itching on the scalp. It is likely that tPBM for AD will need to be continued indefinitely, as regressions have been observed when PBM treatments have ceased. Moreover, unrelated health problems such as urinary tract infections or falls can lead to loss of the benefits achieved with tPBM. Home use tPBM devices can be applied by the caregivers, who consistently report improvements in their own quality of life.”

How to Choose Your Vielight

Start with my article, The Complete Brain Light Buying Guide on Use this link (or scroll all the way down) to read the Vielight Brain Devices portion of the guide. This section describes each Vielight device.

End Notes

[1] Brain Photobiomodulation Therapy: A Narrative Review

[2] Emotional responses and memory performance of middle-aged CD1 mice in a 3D maze: effects of low infrared light

[3] Transcranial low-level laser therapy improves brain mitochondrial function and cognitive impairment in D-galactose-induced aging mice

[4] Transcranial laser therapy attenuates amyloid-β peptide neuropathology in amyloid-β protein precursor transgenic mice

[5] Transcranial infrared laser therapy improves clinical rating scores after embolic strokes in rabbits

[6] Comparison of Therapeutic Effects between Pulsed and Continuous Wave 810-nm Wavelength Laser Irradiation for Traumatic Brain Injury in Mice

[7] Psychological benefits 2 and 4 weeks after a single treatment with near infrared light to the forehead: a pilot study of 10 patients with major depression and anxiety

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