Next to cancer, Alzheimer's disease (AD) and dementia is probably the most worrying health problem facing the Western world today. A large number of clinical trials have failed to show any benefit of the tested drugs in stabilizing or reversing the steady decline in cognitive function that is suffered by dementia patients. Although the pathological features of AD consisting of beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles are well established, considerable debate exists concerning the genetic or lifestyle factors that predispose individuals to developing dementia. Photobiomodulation (PBM) describes the therapeutic use of red or near-infrared light to stimulate healing, relieve pain and inflammation, and prevent tissue from dying. In recent years PBM has been applied for a diverse range of brain disorders, frequently applied in a non-invasive manner by shining light on the head (transcranial PBM). The present review discusses the mechanisms of action of tPBM in the brain, and summarizes studies that have used tPBM to treat animal models of AD. The results of a limited number of clinical trials that have used tPBM to treat patients with AD and dementia are discussed.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; animal models; clinical trials; dementia; mechanisms of action; photobiomodulation.