Blue-Light Therapy Strengthens Resting-State Effective Connectivity within Default-Mode Network after Mild TBI

J Cent Nerv Syst Dis. 2021 May 19;13:11795735211015076. doi: 10.1177/11795735211015076. eCollection 2021.


Background: Emerging evidence suggests that post concussive symptoms, including mood changes, may be improved through morning blue-wavelength light therapy (BLT). However, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects remain unknown. We hypothesize that BLT may influence the effective brain connectivity (EC) patterns within the default-mode network (DMN), particularly involving the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), which may contribute to improvements in mood.

Methods: Resting-state functional MRI data were collected from 41 healthy-controls (HCs) and 28 individuals with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Individuals with mTBI also underwent a diffusion-weighted imaging scan and were randomly assigned to complete either 6 weeks of daily morning BLT (N = 14) or amber light therapy (ALT; N = 14). Advanced spectral dynamic causal modeling (sDCM) and diffusion MRI connectometry were used to estimate EC patterns and structural connectivity strength within the DMN, respectively.

Results: The sDCM analysis showed dominant connectivity pattern following mTBI (pre-treatment) within the hemisphere contralateral to the one observed for HCs. BLT, but not ALT, resulted in improved directional information flow (ie, EC) from the left lateral parietal cortex (LLPC) to MPFC within the DMN. The improvement in EC from LLPC to MPFC was accompanied by stronger structural connectivity between the 2 areas. For the BLT group, the observed improvements in function and structure were correlated (at a trend level) with changes in self-reported happiness.

Conclusions: The current preliminary findings provide empirical evidence that morning short-wavelength light therapy could be used as a novel alternative rehabilitation technique for mTBI.

Trial registry: The research protocols were registered in the database (CT Identifiers NCT01747811 and NCT01721356).

Keywords: Diffusion tensor imaging; effective brain connectivity; light therapy; mood; resting-state fMRI.

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