Photoneuromodulation makes a difficult cognitive task less arduous

Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 1;11(1):13688. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-93228-2.


A positive effect of photoneuromodulation (PNM) has been found on cognitive and emotional functions in healthy populations. However, the hemodynamic changes associated with improved cognitive functions (i.e., memory and executive functions) are unexplored. Therefore, the present study investigated the hemodynamic changes associated with PNM using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). In this experiment, 33 young healthy adults were recruited and randomly assigned to control and experimental groups. A single PNM stimulation was applied to the forehead in the experimental group, while a sham stimulation (same procedure without machine activation) was performed for the control group. Before and after the stimulation, all participants performed an n-back task with 0-and 3-back conditions to assess their working memory function, and their hemodynamic responses during the tasks were measured by fNIRS. A significant group (experimental vs. control) × time (before vs. after PNM) interaction in memory-related frontal activation was found. Specifically, only the experimental group had a significant reduction in frontal hemodynamic levels during the difficult task. Additionally, the memory-related frontal activation was significantly correlated with the immediate and delayed recall of the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test assessed at baseline. Therefore, PNM may reduce the cognitive efforts needed to complete tasks with high memory loads.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Neurovascular Coupling
  • Phototherapy
  • Young Adult