Transcranial near-infrared radiation (NIR) is an innovative treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD), but clinical evidence for its efficacy is limited. Our objective was to investigate the tolerability and efficacy of NIR in patients with MDD. We conducted a proof of concept, prospective, double-blind, randomized study of 6 sessions of NIR versus sham treatment for patients with MDD, using a crossover design. Four patients with MDD with mean age 47 ± 14 (SD) years (1 woman and 3 men) were exposed to irradiance of 700 mW/cm(2) and a fluence of 84 J/cm(2) for a total NIR energy of 2.40 kJ delivered per session for 6 sessions. Baseline mean HAM-D17 scores decreased from 19.8 ± 4.4 (SD) to 13 ± 5.35 (SD) after treatment (t = 7.905; df = 3; P = 0.004). Patients tolerated the treatment well without any serious adverse events. These findings confirm and extend the preliminary data on NIR as a novel intervention for patients with MDD, but further clinical trials are needed to better understand the efficacy of this new treatment. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01538199.