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Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery with Photobiomodulation: Cellular Mechanisms, Clinical Evidence, and Future Potential

By Lew Lim |Mdpi.com | February 23, 2024

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) remains a significant global health challenge, lacking effective pharmacological treatments. This shortcoming is attributed to TBI’s heterogeneous and complex pathophysiology, which includes axonal damage, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and persistent neuroinflammation. The objective of this study is to analyze transcranial photobiomodulation (PBM), which employs specific red to near-infrared light wavelengths to modulate brain functions, as a promising therapy to address TBI’s complex pathophysiology in a single intervention.



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Transcranial Photobiomodulation Treatment: Significant Improvements in Four Ex-Football Players with Possible Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

January 31, 2023

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, diagnosed postmortem (hyperphosphorylated tau), is preceded by traumatic encephalopathy syndrome with worsening cognition and behavior/mood disturbances, over years. Transcranial photobiomod- ulation (tPBM) may promote improvements by increasing ATP in compromised/stressed cells and increasing local blood, lymphatic vessel vasodilation.


Transcranial Photobiomodulation Treatment Effects in Former Athletes with Repetitive Head Hits

Concussion (i.e., mild traumatic brain injury) and repetitive sub-concussive head hits are recognized by the sports medicine community and society at large as a major
public health concern. Psychiatric and neurocognitive functioning disruption and sleep disturbance are associated with these injuries. Transcranial photobiomodulation (tPBM) has been
proposed as a non-invasive treatment.

Download the PDF provided by the University of Utah »


Red/near-infrared irradiation therapy for treatment of central nervous system injuries and disorders

Irradiation in the red/near-infrared spectrum (R/NIR, 630–1000 nm) has been used to treat a wide range of clinical conditions, including disorders of the central nervous system (CNS), with several clinical trials currently underway for stroke and macular degeneration. However, R/NIR irradiation therapy (R/NIR-IT) has not been widely adopted in clinical practice for CNS injury or disease for a number of reasons, which include the following. The mechanism/s of action and implications of penetration have not been thoroughly addressed. The large range of treatment intensities, wavelengths and devices that have been assessed make comparisons difficult, and a consensus paradigm for treatment has not yet emerged. Furthermore, the lack of consistent positive outcomes in randomised controlled trials, perhaps due to sub-optimal treatment regimens, has contributed to scepticism. This review provides a balanced précis of outcomes described in the literature regarding treatment modalities and efficacy of R/NIR-IT for injury and disease in the CNS. We have addressed the important issues of specification of treatment parameters, penetration of R/NIR irradiation to CNS tissues and mechanism/s, and provided the necessary detail to demonstrate the potential of R/NIR-IT for the treatment of retinal degeneration, damage to white matter tracts of the CNS, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.


Read more on PubMed »

Tug McGraw Foundation-Supported Study Provides Hope for Improving Cognitive Function in Veterans

A recently published Tug McGraw Foundation-funded study found that the use of red and near-infrared light therapy improved cerebral blood flow and cognitive functions in veterans with chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI). The landmark study is among the first to demonstrate objective evidence for the reversal of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) deficits in chronic TBI patients. Independent researchers, in collaboration with brain imaging and analytics company CereScan® Corp., used quantitative functional brain imaging and neuropsychological assessments to analyze the therapy’s effectiveness.

Read more at tugmcgraw.org or download the PDF

Photo courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital

Let there be light – Study led by Mass. General suggests light therapy is safe and may help patients with moderate brain injury

Light therapy is safe and has measurable effects in the brain, according to a pioneering study by researchers from the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Senior investigators Rajiv Gupta, director of the Ultra-High Resolution Volume CT Lab at MGH, and Benjamin Vakoc at the Wellman Center led the study, which was supported by a grant from the Department of Defense (DOD) and published in JAMA Network Open Sept. 14.

Read more on The Harvard Gazette or download the PDF»

Photo courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital

Effect of Transcranial Low-Level Light Therapy vs Sham Therapy Among Patients With Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Abstract and Figures

Importance: Preclinical studies have shown that transcranial near-infrared low-level light therapy (LLLT) administered after traumatic brain injury (TBI) confers a neuroprotective response.

Objectives: To assess the feasibility and safety of LLLT administered acutely after a moderate TBI and the neuroreactivity to LLLT through quantitative magnetic resonance imaging metrics and neurocognitive assessment.

Read more on ResearchGate.net or download the PDF»

Light Therapy Saves Former BYU Linebacker From Suicide

For six weeks he reported to the V.A. alongside returning vets from Afghanistan and Iraq. The treatment was painless. In a process called photobiomodulation, each subject was hooked up to a machine that sent what is called “near infrared light” to various parts of the brain.“It’s groundbreaking, there’s no other word to describe it,” he says. “It just seems to reset the brain. The only side effect is I’m stronger and in better shape than I’ve ever been.”

Read more on Deseret News or download the PDF»

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Pulsed Transcranial Red/Near-Infrared Light Therapy Using Light-Emitting Diodes Improves Cerebral Blood Flow and Cognitive Function in Veterans with Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury: A Case Series

By S Gregory Hipskind |Pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov | February 2019

Twelve symptomatic military Veterans diagnosed with chronic TBI >18 months post-trauma received pulsed transcranial PBMT (tPBMT) using two neoprene therapy pads containing 220 infrared and 180 red LEDs, generating a power output of 3.3 W and an average power density of 6.4 mW/cm2 for 20 min, thrice per week over 6 weeks. Outcome measures included standardized neuropsychological test scores and qualitative and quantitative single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) measures of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF).