Red Light Therapy for the Head, Brain
& Mental Health
The benefits of red light therapy in the treatment of medical health conditions are becoming well documented. People are seeing improvements in areas like hair growth, heart disease, pain issues, vision, and various skin conditions. To this point, it would be fair to say the results have been nothing short of amazing in these areas.
In terms of the other benefits of red light therapy (RLT), there has been some rather startling news to come out of the mental health community. There is ample evidence to suggest that red light therapy can benefit people who are dealing with brain trauma and mental health issues. In particular, that would be mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
In the sections below, we want to describe red light therapy and offer information about how it can improve brain function and mental health.
A Quick Tutorial on How Red Light Therapy Works
Human cells depend on energy to grow. That would include new cell growth and cell reparation. The primary catalyst for cell growth is tiny organelles called Mitochondria. To ignite cell growth, Mitochondria use light energy as their source of energy to spur cell growth.
While sunlight is a decent light source for Mitochondria, it turns out the red or near-infrared light is an even better source of energy for Mitochondria. When exposed to red or near-infrared light, Mitochondria are awakened with a tremendous boost of energy. They transmit that energy to targeted cells in the treatment area. Those human cells, in turn, come to life and grow or repair at accelerated rates.
Red light therapy devices like lasers and LED lamps are able to treat very specific areas of the body with much-needed red or near-infrared light. For safety and medical purposes, the red light needs to be administered at a light wave frequency rate of about 600 nm to 1000 nm, depending on where the targeted treatment area might be. If handled properly, RLT can effectively treat the aforementioned medical conditions in 3 to 12 months in many cases.
For what it is worth, RLT can be administered in one of three ways. You can get treatment in a spa setting, clinic, or at home. If you choose to administer your own red light therapy at home by using devices such as these which are approved by the FDA. Also, be sure to follow device instructions and never exceed the recommended light wave frequency guidelines for the area you are treating.
Red Light Therapy for Brain Health
At this point, you should be able to recognize that red light therapy works by promoting cell growth and repair. You should also be aware that the brain is made up of brain cells. It should now be easy to understand how RLT could benefit people with brain conditions or injuries.
Based on evidence from many clinical trials, here are some of the ways RLT can improve brain health:
- Boost memory function
- Promote better short-term and long-term recall
- Improve intelligence and learning capabilities
- Assist in the treatment of degenerative brain disorders (Parkinson's, dementia)
- Assist in the treatment of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
In case you are wondering how red or near-infrared light can help improve memory and intelligence, here is some information that might be of interest to you. Remember, all of this is made possible by the ability of the body to continuously grow strong healthy brain cells, something RLT promotes.
People with seemingly higher levels of intelligence show more alpha, theta, and delta brainwave activity, along with decreased beta brainwave activity. RLT appropriately increases and decreases the levels of activity related to these types of brainwaves. The changes in activity result in a higher level of brain function.
From the prefrontal cortex, people are able to manage executive functions like impulse control, the setting, and achieving of goals, making predictions, planning, and coordinating sequences of actions. The evidence suggests RLT can promote a higher level of achievement in these areas as well.
Finally, memory and instant recall are very important brain functions. It requires a lot of healthy brain cells to work in conjunction with each other. RLT helps with memory and recall by making sure brain cells are abundant and able to repair themselves in a quick fashion.
As for treating concussions and traumatic brain injuries, it is a matter of finding ways to repair damaged brain cells and initiate the growth of new brain cells to replace brain cells that are permanently damaged. The proper frequency of red or near-infrared light waves through the skull can actually stimulate, regenerate, and preserve brain neurons and other brain tissue. Yes, patients do recover faster from brain injuries through RLT.
By the way, there has been reported success in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms with RLT. This is important to note because one of the sources of PTSD is brain damage.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066074/ is an interesting related read.
Red Light Therapy for Mental Health
In part due to the COVID19 pandemic, depression, and anxiety have become major mental health issues in the U.S. and most other parts of the world. There is good news on the horizon regarding the treatment of such mental illnesses. It would seem that RLT has the potential of diminishing symptoms related to both depression and anxiety.
To be clear, researchers are concerned that light penetration from standard RLT devices might not go deep enough to affect center portions of the brain. That would be the general area that would show evidence of mental health issues. However, there have been enough studies done that show evidence RLT works well enough to warrant serious consideration as a potential treatment option for mental health issues.
For a better understanding of how RLT could play a role in treating mental health issues like depression, it is necessary to educate you on how the brain affects depression and anxiety.
Focusing mostly on depression, there are three things that can transpire in the brain to cause or increase depression:
- Neurotransmitter (chemical) imbalance
- Decreased cell energy
- Decreased cerebral blood flow
All three of these conditions can result in brain cell damage. Since brain cell damage plays a role in depression, you can begin to extrapolate that the healing powers of red and near-infrared light can help in the treatment of depression and even anxiety. But how? By increasing blood flow to the brain, which would result in reparation of damaged brain cells and the replacement of new healthy blood cells. Hence, improved mental health.
As for how long RLT would need to be administered when treating depression, studies have shown improvement in depressed individuals within 3 months and further improvement over a year. That is assuming the individual receives the standard three treatments a week for about 15 to 20 minutes per treatment.
Over the next few years, more information should become available regarding the effectiveness of RLT on brain damage and mental health issues. For now, there is enough supporting evidence to suggest it is safe for people to get red or near-infrared light treatments. When doing so for any reason, no one should be surprised if they experience higher brain function and less depression or anxiety.
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