Pilot Study on Dose-Dependent Effects of Transcranial Photobiomodulation on Brain Electrical Oscillations: A Potential Therapeutic Target in Alzheimer's Disease

J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;83(4):1481-1498. doi: 10.3233/JAD-210058.


Background: Transcranial photobiomodulation (tPBM) has recently emerged as a potential cognitive enhancement technique and clinical treatment for various neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders by delivering invisible near-infrared light to the scalp and increasing energy metabolism in the brain.

Objective: We assessed whether transcranial photobiomodulation with near-infrared light modulates cerebral electrical activity through electroencephalogram (EEG) and cerebral blood flow (CBF).

Methods: We conducted a single-blind, sham-controlled pilot study to test the effect of continuous (c-tPBM), pulse (p-tPBM), and sham (s-tPBM) transcranial photobiomodulation on EEG oscillations and CBF using diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) in a sample of ten healthy subjects [6F/4 M; mean age 28.6±12.9 years]. c-tPBM near-infrared radiation (NIR) (830 nm; 54.8 mW/cm2; 65.8 J/cm2; 2.3 kJ) and p-tPBM (830 nm; 10 Hz; 54.8 mW/cm2; 33%; 21.7 J/cm2; 0.8 kJ) were delivered concurrently to the frontal areas by four LED clusters. EEG and DCS recordings were performed weekly before, during, and after each tPBM session.

Results: c-tPBM significantly boosted gamma (t = 3.02, df = 7, p < 0.02) and beta (t = 2.91, df = 7, p < 0.03) EEG spectral powers in eyes-open recordings and gamma power (t = 3.61, df = 6, p < 0.015) in eyes-closed recordings, with a widespread increase over frontal-central scalp regions. There was no significant effect of tPBM on CBF compared to sham.

Conclusion: Our data suggest a dose-dependent effect of tPBM with NIR on cerebral gamma and beta neuronal activity. Altogether, our findings support the neuromodulatory effect of transcranial NIR.

Keywords: Cerebral blood flow; EEG oscillations; light-emitting diode; photobiomodulation; transcranial light therapy; transcranial near-infrared light.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Electroencephalography / radiation effects*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pilot Projects
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Spectrum Analysis