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Can Light Therapy become an alternative treatment for Traumatic Brain Injuries?

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What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) result from concussive impacts to the head, such as car crashes, contact sports, or dangerous falls. The short and long-term effects of TBIs include reduced cognitive function, worse physical wellbeing, and increases in how often we feel negative emotions 2,4,12,14. If left untreated, repeated TBIs can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a severe form of brain damage that can cause psychotic episodes, dementia, and early death 2,4,12,14.

TBIs are common in the U.S. — the CDC’s latest reporting shows that 2.8 million Americans suffer from brain injury every year, and about 61,000 Americans died from TBIs in 20192,4,12,14. Researchers believe that regulating inflammation could play a key role in treating TBIs and could be the way to provide relief to the millions of folks that suffer from this type of brain damage 3,5,6,8,9-11.

How does TBI impact cognitive function?

One key biological marker of TBI is excessive brain inflammation, a set of cellular responses to tissue damage or infection3,8,13. Normally, a small amount of inflammation can help our brain fight off infections and heal from injuries — but with extreme and sudden damage from TBIs, too much inflammation builds up in our brain cells and leads to oxidative stress 3,8,13.

Increased inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to emotional disorders like depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and insomnia (inability to sleep). Chronic brain inflammation is also associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other severe brain diseases 3,8,13.

“Treating TBIs quickly and effectively is of the utmost importance.”

Unfortunately, TBI can be challenging to treat, leaving many folks unable to recover 3,5,6,8,13.

Why is TBI difficult to treat?

Both the brain’s delicacy and the dense skull that encases it make surgery dangerous and expensive 3,8,13. Common medications that reduce inflammation have limited effectiveness within the brain 3,8,13. Alternative treatments that slow down brain activity to reduce inflammation, such as cryotherapy or inducing an artificial coma, can lead to potentially lethal blood clots and dangerously low blood pressure 1,3,8.

“Researchers believe that Light Therapy could be an alternative way to help treat TBI by reducing brain inflammation and increasing cognitive function and overall well-being 5,6,8,9-11.”

How can Light Therapy help treat TBI?

Lighthouse Health has compiled some of the studies that show Light Therapy’s potential to treat TBI below:

1. A 2007 study found that Light Therapy reduced the size of torn and bruised brain areas in animals who suffered from TBI-like injuries11. These TBI-like injuries caused confusion in the animals and made it difficult for them to balance and move their bodies in a coordinated way11. The reductions in brain injuries provided by Light Therapy allowed the animals to regain their bodily functions, healing their brain at the cellular level 11.

2. A 2013 study found that Light Therapy improved recovery from TBIs in humans. The subjects of the study suffered from TBIs due to car crashes, close contact with explosives, or falling incidents 9. Light Therapy Treatment allowed the subjects to think more clearly, feel more energetic and awake, and sleep better compared to not receiving any treatment 9. Researchers believe that these improvements were due to red light penetrating the brain and reducing inflammation while increasing cellular energy production, leading to lasting health benefits 9.

3. Another study looked at humans with long-term TBI to see if Light Therapy could offer relief 6. The researchers applied Light Therapy to the skulls of the subjects in 20 sessions over two months 6. After these sessions, the researchers measured how the subjects performed on cognitive (memory and word recognition) tasks and emotional surveys6. The scientists also used brain-scanning technology to measure changes in cellular health and brain function 6. The results indicated that patients benefited from improved quality of life and cognitive function after Light Therapy treatments, reducing depression, anxiety, and insomnia 6. Additionally, the brain scan data showed the subject’s brain function to be healthier than at the beginning of the study, demonstrating that Light Therapy can help treat TBIs at the cellular level 6.

How can you experience the benefits of Light Therapy?

Light Therapy could offer side-effect-free relief for the cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms of brain damage 3,5,6,8,9-11. To learn more about Light Therapy:

1. Check out our educational content to find the latest studies and use of the technology.
2. Whether you are suffering from diseases like TBI or want to feel recovered and rejuvenated, book a session with Lighthouse Health today to experience the benefits of Light Therapy for yourself.
3. Follow us on social media here, and feel free to reach out with any questions about how Light Therapy could help you experience health benefits!

Works Cited

1. Bayir, H., Adelson, P. D., Wisniewski, S. R., Shore, P., Lai, Y., Brown, D., Janesko-Feldman, K. L., Kagan, V. E., & Kochanek, P. M. (2009). Therapeutic Hypothermia Preserves Antioxidant Defenses after Severe Traumatic Brain Injury in Infants and Children. Critical Care Medicine, 37(2), 689–695. https://doi.org/10.1097/CCM.0b013e318194abf2
2. Brain Injury Facts & Statistics | Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18, 2021, from http://www.biact.org/understanding-brain-injury/brain-injury-facts-statistics
3. Galgano, M., Toshkezi, G., Qiu, X., Russell, T., Chin, L., & Zhao, L.-R. (2017). Traumatic Brain Injury. Cell Transplantation, 26(7), 1118–1130. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963689717714102
4. Get the Facts About TBI | Concussion | Traumatic Brain Injury | CDC Injury Center. (2021, May 12). https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html
5. Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders. BBA Clinical, 6, 113–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbacli.2016.09.002
6. Henderson, T. A., & Morries, L. D. (2015). SPECT Perfusion Imaging Demonstrates Improvement of Traumatic Brain Injury With Transcranial Near-infrared Laser Phototherapy. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 29(4), 27–33. Scopus.
7. Hennessy, M., & Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Photobiomodulation and the brain: A new paradigm. Journal of Optics, 19(1), 013003. https://doi.org/10.1088/2040-8986/19/1/013003
8. Levin, H., Shum, D., & Chan, R. (2014). Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury: Current Research and Future Directions. Oxford University Press.
9. Naeser, M. A., & Hamblin, M. R. (2015). Traumatic Brain Injury: A Major Medical Problem That Could Be Treated Using Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared LED Photobiomodulation. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, 33(9), 443–446. https://doi.org/10.1089/pho.2015.3986
10. Naeser, M. A., Zafonte, R., Krengel, M. H., Martin, P. I., Frazier, J., Hamblin, M. R., Knight, J. A., Meehan, W. P., & Baker, E. H. (2014). Significant Improvements in Cognitive Performance Post-Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Treatments in Chronic, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Open-Protocol Study. Journal of Neurotrauma, 31(11), 1008–1017. https://doi.org/10.1089/neu.2013.3244
11. Oron, A., Oron, U., Streeter, J., Taboada, L. D., Alexandrovich, A., Trembovler, V., & Shohami, E. (2007). Low-Level Laser Therapy Applied Transcranially to Mice following Traumatic Brain Injury Significantly Reduces Long-term Neurological Deficits. Journal of Neurotrauma, 24(4), 651–656. https://doi.org/10.1089/neu.2006.0198
12. Rates of TBI-related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths—United States, 2001–2010 | Concussion | Traumatic Brain Injury | CDC Injury Center. (2019, January 31). https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/data/rates.html
13. Rutland-Brown, W., Langlois, J. A., Thomas, K. E., & Xi, Y. L. (2006). Incidence of traumatic brain injury in the United States, 2003. The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 21(6), 544–548. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001199-200611000-00009
14. TBI Data | Concussion | Traumatic Brain Injury | CDC Injury Center. (2021, May 11). https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/data/index.html

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