Let There Be (Infrared) Light

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An early study out of Texas is showing promising results for treating dementia.

To date, efforts to treat people with dementia have produced limited results. But that might be changing. Researchers at Baylor Scott & White Health in Temple, Texas, recently conducted a study that looks at how near-infrared rays can improve cognition.

Dr. Jason Huang

Dr. Jason Huang, formerly a combat surgeon in Iraq and currently a neurosurgeon at Baylor Scott, is fascinated by brain trauma, cognition and dementia. From December 2018 to September 2020, he and his team studied 57 people with mild to moderate dementia. Two-thirds of the participants wore a helmet that emitted infrared light twice a day for six minutes each for eight weeks. The remaining one-third received a non-emitting placebo treatment.

The group receiving the infrared light treatment improved by almost five points on the 30-question Mini-Mental State Exam (the placebo group improved by 1.4 points). 

In addition, logical memory and auditory verbal learning test scores improved, as did reports of better sleep, more energy and less anxiety. 

The study was supported by a generous donation from Mr. David Clarke through the  Clarke Brain Institute (CBI), and the findings were published in the February 2021 issue of the journal Aging and Disease.

The theory is that near-infrared light stimulates the production of adenosine triphosphate, a molecule that is often in reduced supply in people with neurological conditions. Certain near-infrared wavelengths also have anti-inflammatory properties that could improve blood flow and boost the ability to think and process.

Larger trials need to be conducted to support or refute these findings. Watch for results from studies at Unity Health in Toronto, the University of Florida and the University of California at San Francisco.


View the full study, originally published in the journal Aging and Disease, here.

Read the results of a new study building on the work of Dr. Huang, published in Sci Tech Daily on October 18, 2021 here.