A new study suggests infrared might help people with dementia

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Lasers have been a vital medical tool since the 1960s. Soon after their use for cardiovascular surgery, however, they were also found to have dermatological benefits, and in 1963 the American surgeon Leon Goldman used lasers to destroy pigmented skin elements with light alone.

Now lasers are synonymous with tweaks and changes to our largest organ. It’s easy to forget, therefore, that laser therapy still has the potential to unlock major breakthroughs in how our insides tick: something highlighted by the publication this week which made headline new in The Times.

A new study suggests infrared therapies might have real benefits for people living with Alzheimer's and dementia. A pilot study in the UK found two bouts of transcranial photobiomodulation therapy (PBM-T) for six minutes a day showed “real improvements in memory and other neurological processes”.

The pilot - the outcomes of which were published in the journal Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery - saw 14 people over the age of 45 receive PBM-T twice a day for a month. A control group of 13 people used a dummy helmet for the same length of time. During tests set for both groups, researchers noted significant increases in motor function, brain processing speed, and memory in those using the helmet.


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Dr Gordon Dougal carried out the study with Dr Paul Chazot, and was also responsible for devising the PBM-T helmet with the firm Maculume. The helmet delivers infrared light from 14 fan-cooled LED light arrays, and costs £7,250. The helmet, Dougal said, "may well help dying brain cells regenerate into functioning units once again… Much more research is needed to fully understand the mechanism of action.” Dr Chazot agreed more research was needed, but said this was an indication infrared light at particular wavelengths “can help alleviate nerve cell damage, amyloid load and reduced blood flow in the brain, which are common in people with dementia."

While the study has shows early signs of the benefits of LED and infrared, both technologies are weaker than near infrared lasers like LYMA’s. LYMA’s Laser, which uses cold coherent light to penetrate far below the dermis, is effective at shutting off the production of Nitric Oxide in your cells’ mitochondria, meaning that cells effectively come back to life. This technology can be help to rebuild cartilage in the knee, make painful joints better, sort out pulled muscles and slipped discs, and sort out shin splints or inflamed hips.

There was a separate pilot carried out in America - Chazot and Dougal were involved in this one also - in which 39 patients with Alzheimer’s had the treatment, while 17 were in the control group with the dummy helmet. Participants were shown to have more energy, less anxiety, and a better mood. Women displayed a 20% improvement in scores on assessments after eight weeks, while men saw a 19% improvement.

Could this mean that there's a new salve available for those living with dementia? "There are promising indications," said Dr Chazot, "and this is worth exploring."

Originally published Oct 21, 2021.
Written by David Levesley.

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