Transcranial laser stimulation improves human cerebral oxygenation

Lasers Surg Med. 2016 Apr;48(4):343-9. doi: 10.1002/lsm.22471. Epub 2016 Jan 12.


Background and objective: Transcranial laser stimulation of the brain with near-infrared light is a novel form of non-invasive photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy (LLLT) that has shown therapeutic potential in a variety of neurological and psychological conditions. Understanding of its neurophysiological effects is essential for mechanistic study and treatment evaluation. This study investigated how transcranial laser stimulation influences cerebral hemodynamics and oxygenation in the human brain in vivo using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

Materials and methods: Two separate experiments were conducted in which 1,064-nm laser stimulation was administered at (1) the center and (2) the right side of the forehead, respectively. The laser emitted at a power of 3.4 W and in an area of 13.6 cm2, corresponding to 0.25 W/cm2 irradiance. Stimulation duration was 10 minutes. Nine healthy male and female human participants of any ethnic background, in an age range of 18-40 years old were included in each experiment.

Results: In both experiments, transcranial laser stimulation induced an increase of oxygenated hemoglobin concentration (Δ[HbO2 ]) and a decrease of deoxygenated hemoglobin concentration (Δ[Hb]) in both cerebral hemispheres. Improvements in cerebral oxygenation were indicated by a significant increase of differential hemoglobin concentration (Δ[HbD] = Δ[HbO2 ] - Δ[Hb]). These effects increased in a dose-dependent manner over time during laser stimulation (10 minutes) and persisted after laser stimulation (6 minutes). The total hemoglobin concentration (Δ[HbT] = Δ[HbO2] + Δ[Hb]) remained nearly unchanged in most cases.

Conclusion: Near-infrared laser stimulation applied to the forehead can transcranially improve cerebral oxygenation in healthy humans.

Keywords: brain tissue oxygenation; functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS); low-level laser therapy (LLLT); photobiomodulation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Hemodynamics / radiation effects*
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / methods
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Hemoglobins
  • Oxygen