Light Therapy (Photobiomodulation)

Photobiomodulation is a new potential treatment for concussions being developed by researchers and clinicians. The photobiomodulation devices use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to deliver light in the visible red and near-infrared wavelengths. 

 

LED Light Therapy Devices

In the past decade, researchers and clinicians have been studying the use of light devices to affect healing in the brain for concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI), PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, and dementia. Numerous clinical trials are ongoing, with initial findings showing positive results.

All the research studies are using light therapy devices which are placed on the head, to deliver light therapy through the skull.

For more information about research, we have blog posts on the following: the history of light therapy research for concussions; two recent case studies of retired pro football players with neurodegenerative symptoms; and information on light therapy for veterans. Information regarding research on light therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia is here.

Many of the studies use the MedX Health or Vielight devices, which are available to individual concussion patients. While the Vielight can be purchased online, the MedX Health devices must be purchased through a clinician. Scroll down for information on how to access these devices.

Vielight has provided our readers with a 10% discount on all Vielight devices. Add coupon code BRAINLIGHT10 at checkout.

Use coupon code  BRAINLIGHT10  for 10% off all Vielight devices

Use coupon code BRAINLIGHT10 for 10% off all Vielight devices

MedX home device

MedX home device

How does light therapy work, and is it safe?

Research is showing that near-infrared (NIR) and red light applied through the skull to the brain has numerous positive effects. The effects include increased cerebral blood flow, increased (ATP) energy production, increased neuroprotection and brain repair, and reduced inflammation. A 2019 study found that using light therapy applied to the head has a positive effect on brain wave patterns in just one treatment; read more about the study here.

A series of case studies and small clinical trials have shown light therapy to be helpful for persistent post-concussion symptoms. Later in this article, we have additional information about the research studies and the science behind light therapy.

In terms of safety, the light therapy devices used in research emit non-ionizing forms of light. Non-ionizing light does not carry enough energy to break molecular bonds and ionize atoms. Researchers and clinicians advise against the use of light devices which are not part of current research studies.

  • There is no information about the effectiveness of light therapy devices which are not being used in research. Different light devices have different outputs which will have unknown effects.

  • There is potential for harm with the use of untested light therapy devices to treat something as vulnerable as the brain.

How to access Light Therapy: Vielight and MedX devices

Light therapy treatment is still in the research stage. You can, however, purchase the MedX and Vielight equipment being used in the research studies. They both have advantages and disadvantages, although Vielight is the more accessible of the two devices.

MedX

MedX Home System (one cluster)

MedX Home System (one cluster)

MedX consoles are classified as medical devices. Your purchase of a MedX device will be through a clinician who can help you with setting the equipment to the appropriate dosage of pulsed or non-pulsed light, duration, etc. To find a clinician to work with, contact MedX.

In the clinical trials that used MedX devices, they used the equivalent of two MedX LED clusters. You place the clusters on opposite points on the head. After approximately six minutes of treatment, you move the clusters to the next two points on the head. The process is done a total of six times so that you treat 12 points on the head.


Clinician Anita Saltmarche also recommends the Vielight 810 intranasal device to use in combination with the MedX consoles.

Vielight Neuro Alpha.  For 10% off, use this promo code at checkout: BRAINLIGHT10

Vielight Neuro Alpha. For 10% off, use this promo code at checkout: BRAINLIGHT10

Vielight

Vielight products are the more accessible of the two brands of devices being used in research and which are available to the public. The Vielight devices fit within the FDA category of “Low-Risk Devices, General Wellness.” This FDA category means that no medical claims are made for these devices. The general consumer can purchase the devices directly from the Vielight website.


This 3D animation visualizes the work of the Vielight Neuro photobiomodulation devices. More specifically, it illustrates how the light is delivered during transcranial and intranasal photobiomodulation using the Vielight Neuro. This visualization presents the PBM process for both the Neuro Gamma and the Neuro Alpha brain wellness devices. Video credit: Vielight, Inc.

Why are some of the devices shining light up the nose?

Vielight 633 Red intranasal.  Use promo code BRAINLIGHT10 for 10% off .

Vielight 633 Red intranasal. Use promo code BRAINLIGHT10 for 10% off.

The nasal clips attached to the Gamma and Alpha devices beam near-infrared light to the underside (ventral) regions of the brain. The ventral areas of the brain are the “deep structures within the brain’s core, which have functions such as long term memory and hormonal regulation.”

The 633 Red intranasal device beams red wavelength light (continuous, not pulsed) into the blood through the capillaries in the nasal canal. The nasal canal has a particularly high density of blood vessels. It is hypothesized that the red light passes into the blood vessels and improves blood circulation, via its effect on the mitochondria in blood platelets. The theory is that red light therefore has a more whole body, or systemic effect.


Vielight has provided our readers with a 10% discount on all Vielight devices. Add coupon code BRAINLIGHT10 at checkout. Vielight offers an 80% refund policy valid within six months from the time of purchase.

When you use the Vielight coupon code, Vielight gives Concussion Alliance a small commission which helps keep all our content available for free.

Vielight Neuro Duo

For 10% off, use promo code BRAINLIGHT10

The Alpha and Gamma setting in one device

The Vielight Neuro Duo is a new option. It combines the Neuro Alpha (10Hz) and the Neuro Gamma (40Hz) in a combination device. It has two separate control units, one transcranial headset, and one intranasal applicator.

You can purchase a separate nose applicator to connect to any of the Vielight headsets so that you can share the device with family or a friend. The Vielight website says that it is OK to share the headset devices with your spouse, if “you clean the nasal applicator with a swab of alcohol between each consequent use.”


Vielight has provided our readers with a 10% discount on all Vielight devices. Add coupon code BRAINLIGHT10 at checkout.

When you use the Vielight promo code, Vielight gives Concussion Alliance a small commission (at no costs to you) which helps keep all our content available for free.

Veterans

Additional information concerning light therapy for military veterans with a concussion on our Veterans page.


The science behind LED light therapy for mild traumatic brain injury

Regulation of the Default Mode Network and other brain networks

targeted.photobiomodulation.from.vielight.website.jpg

Research is finding that concussions cause several networks of the brain to become dysregulated, meaning that regions of the brain are not in sync. Concussions cause diffuse axonal injury which "produces neurological impairment by disconnecting brain networks." Researchers use diffusion MRI to map structural damage to these intrinsic connectivity networks caused by concussions. 

A 2019 study found that one treatment using the Vielight Neuro Gamma headset positively modulated brain waves. Read about the Default Mode Network (DMN) and light therapy in the 2019 article by Dr. Naeser in Vielight for more information.

A 2018 study found that light therapy improves brain connectivity and cognition; the study discusses the DMN.

Dr. Naeser discusses the theory that light therapy may help regulate the DMN in this 2017 article, sections 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3. The article discusses her study, in which concussion patients given light therapy showed significant positive improvements in cognitive function, improved sleep, fewer PTSD symptoms, and better social functioning.

A 2012 study looked at patients with a sports-related concussion. While the concussion patients were resting, they had normal function in the Default Mode Network. But when the concussion patients did light aerobic activity, their Default Mode Network became dysregulated.

Additional positive effects of light therapy on the injured brain

Laboratory studies have found that light therapy (with red and near-infrared light (810nm) light) increases the ATP (or energy production) in hypoxic cells. Hypoxic cells are cells which lack oxygen due to injury or disease.

Studies with humans (in 2009, 2012, 2019 and 2019) have found that light therapy widens blood vessels (vasodilation), thus increasing blood flow, in limited, specific areas in the brain. This increased blood flow is related to an enzyme in the mitochondria (the cells “powerhouse”) getting rid of toxic nitric oxide due to increased vasodilation.

We recommend the article What is Photobiomodulation for technical explanations of how this therapy works. We also suggest the 2017 article “Photobiomodulation for traumatic brain injury and stroke” and the 2016 article “Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders,” both by Michael E. Hamblin.

Background on the use of light therapy

Photobiomodulation Therapy, using Low-Level Laser or LED Light Therapy devices, has been used for over 50 years. These medical light therapy devices have been successfully used to enhance wound healing and to treat musculoskeletal conditions.


Although larger-scale research studies are needed, the past decade of clinical and research results on photobiomodulation for the brain show promise:

  • Photobiomodulation for the brain is safe, based on 15 years of clinical application and 10 years of research.

  • It is an excellent "adjunctive" therapy. Light appears to enhance other clinical therapies such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, and craniosacral therapy.

  • Researchers recommend it as a "first-line treatment" - there is some indication that the sooner the treatment is started, the better.


Related information on our blog

This article is for information purposes only. No medical claims are made. By providing the information contained herein, we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing disease or medical condition. Before beginning any treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.