Researchers have been seeking an effective direct treatment for the symptoms that follow traumatic brain injuries, but so far have come up short. Currently, the best practice for recovering from concussions and TBI include rest and relaxation, but a study published recently in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment is hailing a new treatment as a breakthrough.
According to the study, a specific high-powered near infrared light (NIR) can effectively restore damaged brain cells after penetrating the skin and skull. In the small study, all patients reported significant clinical improvements in their condition with no negative side effects, according to Theodore Henderson, MD, PhD, who co-authored the study along with Dr. Larry Morries, and Paolo Cassano of Massachusetts General.
The study is one of the only studies conducted on NIR lasers so far, and the only to use the more powerful Class-IV laser to deliver NIR, according to Dr. Henderson.
“This is a real game changer,” said Dr. Henderson, co-founder of the Neuro-Laser Foundation, “because these patients have retained the benefits for up to four years now. For those who have been told there is no treatment for TBI, we invite you to look closely at what we’ve found and you will regain hope.”
The research focused on individuals with long-lasting concussion symptoms such as athletes and military veterans. These symptoms included headaches, speech irregularities, confusion, memory slips, lack of impulse control, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and depression.
“Patients from the study experienced a significant reduction of their depressive symptoms as demonstrated using standardized depression scales,” Dr. Henderson said. “They all improved dramatically. Headaches, depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, sleep problems, and relationship problems all resolved. Several unemployed patients returned to work or started new careers.”
The study was conducted from 2011 to 2013 with 10 people diagnosed with chronic mild-to-moderate TBI as a result of athletics, military activities, or activity as a first-responder. The participants were given 10 transcranial applications of high-power NIR over the course of two months. The treatments took less the one hour.
While Dr. Henderson is claiming exciting findings using the high-powered NIR, he cautions that low-powered NIR or diode-based infrared light does not penetrate far enough to be effective.
The study is highly limited by its small sample size, and there is plenty of reason to be skeptical of the incredible claims by Dr. Henderson and colleagues. But, the findings do call for further research to see if NIR treatment could truly be the treatment for long-term TBI that has been sought for so long.
“We have seen the effectiveness of NILT transform people’s lives. Now, we plan on making this treatment more widely available,” said Dr. Henderson.