Red Light Therapy For Brain Health

Red light therapy has been a hot topic of research with over 1000 independent studies in the last couple of decades for its unique effects on the body at a cellular level.

Studies show that red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths have advantages for improving conditions of mild traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disorders, without invasive surgeries. One of the biggest obstacles to treating neurological disorders is the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from harmful substances, but makes it difficult for medication delivery.

Powerful red light and near-infrared light-emitting diodes deliver gentle therapeutic wavelengths through the layers of skin and skull to optimize cell function naturally.

In this article, we'll look at the scientific evidence that supports this and how you can receive some of the benefits of red light therapy to your improve cognitive function in the comfort of your home. 

How Does Red Light Therapy Work For Brain Health? 

Red light therapy is a form of photobiomodulation or Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). Its clinical studies are still in their infancy. However, the research is proving to be very promising for its advantages in cellular repair and function for brain disorders.  

Photobiomodulation uses non-ionizing (does not produce radiation) light sources such as LED or broadband light in the visible (400 – 700 nm) and invisible near-infrared (700 – 1000 nm) wavelength spectrum. 

Our cells are sensitive to light, and these particular therapeutic wavelengths of light can penetrate past our skin to affect our cells within the brain to increase cerebral blood flow and improve metabolic cellular function.

Let's have a closer look at some of the mechanisms at play regarding red light therapy and brain health. 

Red Light Therapy Improves Cell Metabolic Function

Chronic mild traumatic brain conditions like metabolic encephalopathy are a result of a chemical imbalance in the blood from dysfunctional organs, like the kidneys or liver failing to filter blood effectively. Symptoms include reduced executive function, mood disorders, and sleep disturbances.

Be sure to visit your doctor to find out the root cause of your condition, so they can provide you with proper treatment. Light-emitting diode treatments may support your recovery, but it's not a cure-all answer.

Our cells are hard-wired to respond to light. Similar to how plants have cells in their leaves that convert sunlight into energy, there are light-absorbing within the mitochondria of our human cells. 

When the mitochondria are stimulated with near-infrared wavelengths, it produces more adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The cells need ATP like cars need fuel. ATP is used to carry out all cellular functions, from muscle contractions to cellular signaling for organ support.

Because of this, LLLT has been shown to be advantageous for supporting chronic mild brain conditions, which can result in significant improvements in cognitive function [1]. 

Red Light Therapy Reduces Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress occurs when there's a build-up of free radicals, and the body has a difficult time eliminating it with antioxidants — we need both of these molecules for healthy cell function.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are highly reactive to other molecules, causing significant damage to tissue, proteins, and DNA. 

A build-up of free radicals has been observed to damage the brain, resulting in a decline in executive function. Oxidative stress is linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's [2]. 

Photobiomodulation or LLLT increases blood flow and improves mitochondrial function to fight oxidative damage in the brain. Additionally, LLLT may have neuroprotectant properties to slow down cell death and promote neurons' longevity to improve cognitive function [3]. 

Red Light Therapy Supports A Healthy Inflammatory Response 

While inflammation is an integral part of the body's immune defense against bacteria, viruses, and injuries, chronic inflammation in the brain can have serious consequences. 

Chronic inflammation has been linked with neurodegenerative diseases and mood disorders including, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

LLLT reduces inflammatory markers to promote healthier levels of inflammation [4]. Transcranial red/ near-infrared therapy show significant improvement of cerebral blood flow to help remove waste from the affected area to reduce unhealthy inflammation.  

Red Light Therapy Supports Neuron Cells Regrowth

Until recently, scientists didn't believe that the adult brain could produce new brain cells. It was thought to be unique to infants' and children's developing brains. The process of brain cell regrowth is called neurogenesis, which supports learning, storing long-term memories, and regulating emotions. 

The first reported evidence of photobiomodulation encouraging new neuron growth was observed in adult rats in 2006 [5]. Researchers measured double the amount of neural progenitor cells that self-renew and adapt to become neurons or glial cells when needed. These results are promising in supporting people with traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

Research On Transcranial Red/ Near-Infrared Light For Mild Traumatic Brain Injury 

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), especially mild ones like concussions, are often difficult to diagnose and harder to treat. 

Concussions are notoriously difficult to diagnose because there is no visible injury to the brain, but they can leave you with blurry vision, migraine headaches, nausea, and mood disorders. It's been speculated that repeated concussions can result in dementia-like symptoms labeled chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), common in high-impact sports athletes. 

Researchers from the Wellman Center for Photomedicine in Massachusetts studied the clinical effects of infrared light treatments in patients who have suffered moderate brain injuries.

The researchers used transcranial LED therapy or light-emitting helmets to deliver the therapeutic wavelengths. Out of the 68 clinic patients, 28 received treatment, and the MRI showed significant differences in myelin sheath's integrity (cells that protect neurons) of the patients who have undergone LLLT versus the control group, resulting in improvements in cognitive performance. [6]

While more clinical trials are needed to support these findings for NIR light's mainstream use in TBI treatment, the key takeaways from this study are that light therapy is safe and has measurable effects on the brain, and it shows potential for a widely accepted treatment for traumatic brain injury. 

At-Home Red Light Therapy Devices 

Red light therapy is gaining more popularity as a natural and non-invasive way to support one's health. However, the cost of treatment at your physiotherapy clinic can cost upwards of $120 per session, which isn't ideal for many people, especially when the advantages of light therapy come with consistent use. 

When shopping for light therapy devices to use at home, you want to make sure you're getting the most out of your hard-earned cash—you'll find many products that overpromise but under-deliver on their health benefits.

Shop for a red light therapy device that has both NIR light and red light spectrum. Red light on its own won't penetrate past the skin without the help of the near-infrared wavelength.

The therapeutic wavelengths are between 660 –880 nm. If the device does not list the wavelengths used, it's likely not effective.

Next, your LED unit's irradiation is an important factor when purchasing an at-home red light therapy device. Studies have shown the most effective treatment involved pulsed 10 Hz exposure over continuous light [6]. 

KOZE Red And Near-Infrared Light Devices

The KOZE Red Light Therapy devices are designed for in-clinic and at-home use. Meticulously built to support a combination or isolate red light (660 nm) or NIR light wavelength treatments (850 nm), to provide you with more versatility of use. 

Although KOZE doesn't come in an LED helmet, some research suggests that NIR light is most effective when applied to the forehead because there's no hair, and you yield a longer wavelength [7]. 

The KOZE Red Light and Near Infrared LED devices are the first FDA Listed Class 2 medical devices backed with a 60-day guarantee. 

Koze devices available in 3 options: 

  1. KOZE Mini: portable, hand-held device ideal for on-the-go use and spot treatment areas
  2. KOZE S Series: can be used on a desk or mounted to the wall for spot treatments or half-body use. 
  3. KOZE X Series: a large modular panel you can attach to a door mounting kit or mobile stand 

The Koze Red Light Therapy devices aren't specifically designed to treat traumatic brain injury or brain disorders, but there are no devices on the market that can ethically claim to do so. Rather, our devices supercharge the cellular body to improve your overall health, and its use serves a variety of lifestyles.

Frequently Asked Questions About Light Therapy And Brain Health

What are the side effects of red light therapy? 

Red light therapy treatments are painless and safe. However, some people may experience some side effects such as headaches and eye strain. 

If you're on any medication or have experienced a traumatic brain injury, we recommend that you speak with your doctor about the safety of red light therapy for your situation. 

Is it safe to do red light therapy every day?

Red and NIR light therapy is considered very safe, even with consistent use. In fact, you'll get the best results with daily at-home treatments with quality red and infrared light-emitting diode devices at wavelengths between (660 nm and 850 nm).

How long does it take for red light therapy to work? 

We recommend using your Koze device every day for up to 3 times a day of 15–20 minute treatment sessions, if possible, to see the best results. 

The advantages of red light therapy come about with consistent use, and you should start to see improvements in your overall mood, energy levels, and mental clarity within weeks.

Can red light therapy cause skin cancer? 

Red light therapy devices contain non-thermal, non-ionizing light waves that are UV-free. Your device shouldn't feel hot to touch and will not damage your skin with harmful UV radiation. 

The Takeaway: Light Therapy And Brain Health

In clinic studies using LLLT shows much potential for treating people with traumatic brain injury (TBI), but more research is needed for it to become a widely accepted form of treatment. 

Biomodulation works by supporting the cells' mitochondria to improve cell function and its rejuvenation process. This is especially important in the brain, as it's notoriously difficult to access with medication due to the blood-brain barrier's highly protective nature.

If you'd like to experience the benefits of red light and NIR light therapy devices at home, make sure you're buying a product from a reputable brand as there are many scam products on the market that over-promise but underwhelm. 

Red light therapy devices support a wide range of health functions from skin health, muscle recovery, mood balance, and more. If you'd like to learn more about the benefits of red light therapy, be sure you look to our blog for more information.