Effects of transcranial photobiomodulation with near-infrared light on sexual dysfunction

Lasers Surg Med. 2019 Feb;51(2):127-135. doi: 10.1002/lsm.23011. Epub 2018 Sep 17.


Objectives: Transcranial photobiomodulation (t-PBM) consists of the delivery of near-infrared (NIR) or red light to the scalp designed to penetrate to subjacent cortical areas of the brain. NIR t-PBM has recently emerged as a potential therapy for brain disorders. This study assessed the efficacy of repeated sessions of NIR t-PBM on sexual dysfunction.

Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of a double-blind clinical trial on t-PBM for major depressive disorder (MDD). Twenty individuals received NIR t-PBM (n = 9) or sham therapy (n = 11) twice a week for 8 weeks. Sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm were assessed using the Systematic Assessment for Treatment-Emergent Effects-Specific Inquiry (SAFTEE-SI).

Results: The mean improvement in sexual function (decrease in SAFTEE sex total score) in subjects receiving t-PBM in NIR-mode was significantly greater than in subjects receiving sham-mode in the whole sample (NIR [n = 9] -2.55 ± 1.88 vs. sham [n = 11] -0.45 ± 1.21; z = 2.548, P = 0.011]) and in the completers (NIR [n = 5] -3.4 ± 1.95 vs. sham [n = 7] -0.14 ± 1.21; z = 2.576, P = 0.010]).

Conclusion: This exploratory study with a small sample size indicates that repeated sessions of NIR t-PBM may be associated with therapeutic effects on sexual dysfunction. The latter appeared unrelated to the antidepressant effect of t-PBM in our cohort. Lasers Surg. Med. 51:127-135, 2019. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: photobiomodulation; sexual dysfunction; transcranial.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays / therapeutic use*
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / therapy*