Transcranial photobiomodulation (tPBM) is the process of delivering light photons through the skull to benefit from its modifying effect. Brain disorders are important health problems. The aim of this review was to determine the existing evidence of effectiveness, useful parameters, and safety of tPBM in the management of traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson, and Alzheimer's disease as the common brain disorders. Four online databases, including Cochrane, Pub Med, Embase, and Google scholar were searched according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. 4728 articles were obtained in the initial search. Only those articles that were published until September 2020 and designed as randomized clinical trials (RCTs) or animal-controlled studies were included. 6 RCTs, 2 related supplementary articles, and 38 controlled animal studies met the inclusion criteria of this study. No RCTs were performed in the fields of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The human RCTs and animal studies reported no adverse events resulted from the use of tPBM. Useful parameters of tPBM were identified according to the controlled animal studies. Since the investigated RCTs had no homogenous results, making an evidence-based decision for definite therapeutic application of tPBM is still unattainable. Altogether, these data support the need for large confirmatory well-designed RCTs for using tPBM as a novel, safe, and easy-to-administer treatment of brain disorders.
Evidence before this study: High prevalence and complications of brain disorders and also side effects of neuropsychiatric medications have encouraged researchers to find alternative therapeutic techniques which tPBM can be one of them. In present review we tried to determine the existing evidence of effectiveness, useful parameters, and safety of tPBM in the management of traumatic brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer, and Parkinson's disease as common brain disorders. Four online databases, including "Cochrane", "Pub Med", "Embase", and "Google scholar" were searched. Only those articles that were published until September 2020 and designed as RCTs or animal-controlled studies were included. Search keywords were the followings: transcranial photobiomodulation" OR "transcranial low-level laser therapy" AND "stroke" OR "traumatic brain injury" OR "Alzheimer" OR "Parkinson". Several studies have confirmed effectiveness of tPBM in treatment of different brain disorders but the level of evidence of its effectiveness remain to be determined.
Added value of this study: In this study we systematically reviewed human RCTs to determine the existing evidence of tPBM effectiveness in management of four mentioned brain disorders. Since the outcomes of the reviewed RCTs were not homogeneous, further well-designed RCTs are required to decide more definitively on the evidence of this noninvasive and probably safe therapeutic intervention. We hypothesized that non-homogeneous outcomes could be due to inefficiency of PBM parameters. Controlled animal studies have the advantage of using objective tests to evaluate the results and compare them with the control group. We determined useful tPBM parameters based on these studies.
Implications of all the available evidence: This research is part of our main project of tinnitus treatment using photobiomodulation (PBM). Evidence of central nervous system involvement in tinnitus led us to believe that treatment protocol of tinnitus should also include transcranial PBM. The determined useful parameters can be helpful in designing more efficient tPBM protocols in the management of brain disorders and tinnitus as a common debilitating symptom that can be associated with these disorders.
Keywords: Alzheimer; Low level laser therapy; Parkinson; Stroke; Transcranial photobiomodulation; Traumatic brain injury.
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