The results of the first trial were astonishing. Five people diagnosed with dementia — even the two most severe cases among them — saw their memories improve.
A larger trial is hoping to confirm the findings of this small group. If it does, this could be the first treatment that mainstream researchers will say is clinically proven to reverse dementia. However, for longtime readers of this newsletter, you know we’ve outlined a number of other alternative treatments that can reverse memory loss and dementia and these have yet to be acknowledged by mainstream medicine.
Still, it’s exciting that the mainstream may be on the verge of embracing this non-drug, easy-to-undertake approach that requires just 20 minutes a day. It’s called photobiomodulation.
Pulsing Light into the Brain
Photobiomodulation is part of a relatively new field of study that investigates the benefits of using light to make changes in brain chemistry. Researchers are currently using two kinds of light therapy to affect brain chemistry.
First, because some proteins are light sensitive, when genes required to make these proteins are introduced into certain brain cells, the cells’ activity can be controlled using light signals. The technique is called optogenetics.
Five years ago, MIT scientists performed a groundbreaking study where they used optogenics to retrieve memories in mice that had been lost to amnesia. The process of optogenics is somewhat complicated, however, and must be done in a clinic rather than at home.
Photobiomodulation, on the other hand, is much simpler and can be carried out at home. This treatment merely involves wearing a headset mounted with LED lights that fires pulses of gamma light waves into the brain. The light is aimed at regions commonly damaged by conditions such as traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The light waves can penetrate through the scalp, skull and brain to depths of four centimeters or more. A separate nasal clip channels light through the nostrils to the hippocampus, a key memory and learning area.
Photobiomodulation works by boosting the mitochondria, the energy centers of the cell. Mitochondria are able to absorb red and near infrared light. In the process, energy production is heightened, triggering a cascade of neuroprotective effects, self-repair mechanisms and enhanced brain function.
The headset was developed by Vielight, a biotech company based in Canada. The CEO and inventor of the device, Dr. Lew Lim, explains the process like this: “Photobiomodulation introduces the therapeutic effect of light into our brain. It triggers the body to restore its natural balance or homeostasis. When we do that, we call upon the body’s innate ability to heal.”
Cognition and Quality of Life Improved
Scientists conducted the first trial of photobiomodulation in 2017 with three patients suffering from mild dementia and two with moderately severe dementia or possible Alzheimer’s. They treated these patients for 12 weeks with a one-month follow up period during which no treatment was given.
The researchers reported “significant cognitive improvement. Increased function, better sleep, fewer angry outbursts, less anxiety and wandering.”
After 12 weeks, scores on the MMSE — a standard cognitive test given to dementia patients — rose from ten to 12 in one of the most severe cases and ten to 13 in the other severe case. The latter patient now falls into the category of moderate rather than severe dementia. All three patients with mild dementia also improved.
In a different test called ADAS-cog, a four-point change after 24 weeks is considered clinically important. After 12 weeks the two mostly severely affected patients experienced a positive change of eight and 9.33 points respectively, while two of the three with mild dementia saw changes of 7.34 and 9.67.
Best of all, these remarkable results translated into improved quality of life. Feedback from both patients and caregivers confirmed study participants experienced improvements in performing daily activities of living.
Anita Saltmarche, one of the members of the clinical study team, reported on the two most severe cases saying, “They were eating independently; they didn’t have to be fed. One of them came in very slumped, unable to walk and by six weeks into treatment he was much more responsive, able to walk independently.”
One patient was lost to follow up but three of the remaining four all saw a decline in their condition during the “no treatment” period. This suggests light therapy must be applied permanently, which shouldn’t be worrisome as the only reported side effects were temporary tiredness, headache or dry throat.
Researchers are currently performing a much larger follow up trial with 228 patients at eight locations across the U.S. and Canada, plus a placebo group. Results are expected sometime next year.
Photobiomodulation Performs Far Better Than Drugs
Dr. Lim believes interest in photobiomodulation is just getting started because his is the only treatment that is clinically proven to help the brain heal from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions.
“We have a much bigger ambition than the drug trials,” says Dr. Lim. “Drug developers are mainly either seeking to slow the mental decline in diagnosed cases, or to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by intervening at the pre-symptomatic stage.
“Based on early data, we are confident of seeing some measure of recovery in the symptoms, not just a slowdown in the rate of decline, even in moderate to severe cases.
“It is a safe and easy intervention that can potentially improve outcomes significantly.”