Noninvasive transcranial NIR light therapy has potential to treat PTSD

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) have been studying the effects of transcranial near-infrared (NIR) light therapy on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries. Their findings could result in an noninvasive, long-term treatment for brain disorders.

Related: Photobiomodulation and the brain: Traumatic brain injury and beyond

Led by Hanli Liu, a professor in UTA's Department of Bioengineering and the primary investigator on the project, the research team has not only investigated the brain imaging capability of NIR light, but also revealed the therapeutic rationale for potentially improving cognitive functions of patients with PTSD. The team used a human forearm as a biological model instead of the human brain to avoid confounding factors due to such anatomical structures as the scalp and skull. Their paper describing the work outlines their discovery that shining NIR light on the subject's forearm increases production of cytochrome-c-oxydase, a protein inside the neurons that stimulates blood flow. This discovery shows great potential that NIR or IR light also will work within the brain.

Noninvasive transcranial NIR light therapy has potential to treat PTSD
Hanli Liu, UTA bioengineering professor and primary investigator of the work.

Next, the research team plans to quantify production of cytochrome-c-oxydase and increase of blood flow. It would support a novel, noninvasive treatment with imaging ability, especially for memory, that could really help veterans who suffer from PTSD.

Full details of this latest work appear in the journal Scientific Reports; for more information, please visit

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