Effects of Photobiomodulation on Changes in Cognitive Function and Regional Cerebral Blood Flow in Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Uncontrolled Trial

J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;83(4):1513-1519. doi: 10.3233/JAD-210386.


Background: Photobiomodulation (PBM) affects local blood flow regulation through nitric oxide generation, and various studies have reported on its effect on improving cognitive function in neurodegenerative diseases. However, the effect of PBM in the areas of the vertebral arteries (VA) and internal carotid arteries (ICA), which are the major blood-supplying arteries to the brain, has not been previously investigated.

Objective: We aimed to determine whether irradiating PBM in the areas of the VA and ICA, which are the major blood-supplying arteries to the brain, improved regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) and cognitive function.

Methods: Fourteen patients with mild cognitive impairments were treated with PBM. Cognitive assessment and single-photon emission computed tomography were implemented at the baseline and at the end of PBM.

Results: Regarding rCBF, statistically significant trends were found in the medial prefrontal cortex, lateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and occipital lateral cortex. Based on the cognitive assessments, statistically significant trends were found in overall cognitive function, memory, and frontal/executive function.

Conclusion: We confirmed the possibility that PBM treatment in the VA and ICA areas could positively affect cognitive function by increasing rCBF. A study with a larger sample size is needed to validate the potential of PBM.

Keywords: Low-level light therapy; mild cognitive impairment; photobiomodulation; photobiomodulation therapy; regional cerebral blood flow.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / radiation effects
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / radiation effects*
  • Cognition / radiation effects*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy*
  • Executive Function / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Male
  • Memory / radiation effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pilot Projects
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon