This is the first controlled study demonstrating the beneficial effects of transcranial laser stimulation on cognitive and emotional functions in humans. Photobiomodulation with red to near-infrared light is a novel intervention shown to regulate neuronal function in cell cultures, animal models, and clinical conditions. Light that intersects with the absorption spectrum of cytochrome oxidase was applied to the forehead of healthy volunteers using the laser diode CG-5000, which maximizes tissue penetration and has been used in humans for other indications. We tested whether low-level laser stimulation produces beneficial effects on frontal cortex measures of attention, memory and mood. Reaction time in a sustained-attention psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) was significantly improved in the treated (n=20) vs. placebo control (n=20) groups, especially in high novelty-seeking subjects. Performance in a delayed match-to-sample (DMS) memory task showed also a significant improvement in treated vs. control groups as measured by memory retrieval latency and number of correct trials. The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS-X), which tracks self-reported positive and negative affective (emotional) states over time, was administered immediately before treatment and 2 weeks after treatment. The PANAS showed that while participants generally reported more positive affective states than negative, overall affect improved significantly in the treated group due to more sustained positive emotional states as compared to the placebo control group. These data imply that transcranial laser stimulation could be used as a non-invasive and efficacious approach to increase brain functions such as those related to cognitive and emotional dimensions. Transcranial infrared laser stimulation has also been proven to be safe and successful at improving neurological outcome in humans in controlled clinical trials of stroke. This innovative approach could lead to the development of non-invasive, performance-enhancing interventions in healthy humans and in those in need of neuropsychological rehabilitation.
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