Treating cognitive impairment with transcranial low level laser therapy

J Photochem Photobiol B. 2017 Mar:168:149-155. doi: 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2017.02.008. Epub 2017 Feb 13.


This report examines the potential of low level laser therapy (LLLT) to alter brain cell function and neurometabolic pathways using red or near infrared (NIR) wavelengths transcranially for the prevention and treatment of cognitive impairment. Although laser therapy on human tissue has been used for a number of medical conditions since the late 1960s, it is only recently that several clinical studies have shown its value in raising neurometabolic energy levels that can improve cerebral hemodynamics and cognitive abilities in humans. The rationale for this approach, as indicated in this report, is supported by growing evidence that neurodegenerative damage and cognitive impairment during advanced aging is accelerated or triggered by a neuronal energy crisis generated by brain hypoperfusion. We have previously proposed that chronic brain hypoperfusion in the elderly can worsen in the presence of one or more vascular risk factors, including hypertension, cardiac disease, atherosclerosis and diabetes type 2. Although many unanswered questions remain, boosting neurometabolic activity through non-invasive transcranial laser biostimulation of neuronal mitochondria may be a valuable tool in preventing or delaying age-related cognitive decline that can lead to dementia, including its two major subtypes, Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. The technology to achieve significant improvement of cognitive dysfunction using LLLT or variations of this technique is moving fast and may signal a new chapter in the treatment and prevention of neurocognitive disorders.

Keywords: Cerebral blood flow; Cognition; Cytochrome c oxidase; Energy metabolism; Low level laser therapy; Mitochondria; Photobiomodulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / radiation effects
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy*
  • Dementia / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Mitochondria / radiation effects
  • Neurons / ultrastructure