Transcranial light-emitting diode therapy for neuropsychological improvement after traumatic brain injury: a new perspective for diffuse axonal lesion management

Med Devices (Auckl). 2018 Apr 26;11:139-146. doi: 10.2147/MDER.S155356. eCollection 2018.


The cost of traumatic brain injury (TBI) for public health policies is undeniable today. Even patients who suffer from mild TBI may persist with cognitive symptoms weeks after the accident. Most of them show no lesion in computed tomography or conventional magnetic resonance imaging, but microstructural white matter abnormalities (diffuse axonal lesion) can be found in diffusion tensor imaging. Different brain networks work together to form an important part of the cognition process, and they can be affected by TBI. The default mode network (DMN) plays an important central role in normal brain activities, presenting greater relative deactivation during more cognitively demanding tasks. After deactivation, it allows a distinct network to activate. This network (the central executive network) acts mainly during tasks involving executive functions. The salience network is another network necessary for normal executive function, and its activation leads to deactivation of the DMN. The use of red or near-infrared (NIR) light to stimulate or regenerate tissue is known as photobiomodulation. It was discovered that NIR (wavelength 800-900 nm) and red (wavelength 600 nm) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are able to penetrate through scalp and skull and have the potential to improve the subnormal, cellular activity of compromised brain tissue. Based on this, different experimental and clinical studies were done to test LED therapy for TBI, and promising results were found. It leads us to consider developing different approaches to maximize the positive effects of this therapy and improve the quality of life of TBI patients.

Keywords: diffuse axonal injury; low-level light therapy; neurologic manifestations; post-concussion syndrome; quality of life; traumatic brain injuries.

Publication types

  • Review