NEUROSCIENCE/LOW-LEVEL LASER THERAPY: LED therapy boosts cognitive function following brain injury

Research newly published in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery details the first case reports documenting improved cognitive function in chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients treated with transcranial light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and concludes that controlled studies are warranted.

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Research newly published in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery (doi:10.1089/pho.2010.2814) details the first case reports documenting improved cognitive function in chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients treated with transcranial light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and concludes that controlled studies are warranted. The study reports the application of red and near-infrared LEDs, applied transcranially to forehead and scalp areas of two patients. The studies used MedX Health’s (Mississauga, ON, Canada) model 1100 LED console device, a cluster-head of 2.1 inches in diameter containing 52 near-infrared (870 nm) and nine red (633 nm) diodes for a total optical output power of 500 mW (±20%) continuous wave.

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Patient 1 began the low-level laser therapy (LLLT) seven years after closed-head TBI from a motor vehicle accident, at a time when her ability for sustained attention (computer work) was just 20 minutes. After eight weekly treatments (applied bilaterally for between 5 and 13 minutes), her sustained attention time increased to three hours. She has now performed nightly home treatments for five years.

Patient 2 had a history of closed-head trauma (sports/military and recent fall), and magnetic resonance imaging showed frontoparietal atrophy. When she began the LED treatment, she had been on medical disability for five months. After four months of nightly LED treatments at home, she was able to discontinue medical disability and return to working full-time. Neuropsychological testing after nine months of LED treatment indicated significant improvement in executive function (inhibition, inhibition accuracy) and memory, as well as reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder.

These patients’ cognitive gains decreased if they stopped treatment for one to two weeks, and returned when treatment was restarted.

The findings will provide a basis for future therapeutic use of phototherapy, according to Raymond J. Lanzafame, editor-in-chief of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. “The development of novel therapies to restore function after neurologic injury, stroke, or disease is an increasingly important goal in medical research as a result of an increase in non-fatal traumatic wounds and the increasing prevalence of dementias and other degenerative disorders in our aging population,” he explains.

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