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Self-Administered Transcranial Light Therapy Improves Cognitive Function for TBI Patients

At-home, daily application of low level laser light therapy via light-emitting diodes (LEDs) placed on the forehead and scalp improved cognitive function in patients with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to a study published online in March 2011 in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery.

Margaret Naeser, PhD, LAc, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital, used transcranial LED-based light therapy to treat two patients with longstanding traumatic brain injury (TBI). Each patient applied LEDs nightly. Neuropsychological testing 9 months after nightly applications showed substantial improvement in cognitive function, including improved memory, inhibition, and ability to sustain attention and focus.

Patient #1 went from being able to do just 20 minutes of computer work a day to 3 hours per day. Patient #2 was able to discontinue medical disability and return to work as an executive consultant to an international technology consulting firm. These cognitive gains decreased if the patients stopped treatments for 1-2 weeks and returned when treatment was restarted. Both patients are continuing LED treatments in the home.

The researchers said the transcranial low level laser light therapy improves brain function by increasing cellular respiration in the mitochondria of brain cells and by increasing neurogenesis (the birth of new brain cells) by stimulating increased production of certain nerve growth factors.