Using Light Therapy to Treat Brain Injuries

In the ongoing fight to treat debilitating brain injuries, scientists may have identified a new and unexpected tool. According to the Science Blog, Gulf War veterans and other traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients are receiving innovative light treatments in hopes of improving brain function. The 30 minute procedure is reportedly painless and involves the application of infrared lights through the scalp of the head.

How the Treatment Works

Patients are reportedly given helmets containing diodes, which are electronic components that emit a current. These diodes send red lights and near-infrared lights through the head. Additionally, physicians place diodes into the patient’s nose for the purpose of reaching deeper regions within the brain. According to the report, MRI scans revealed that the light increased the flow of blood inside of the brain by causing an increase in the output of nitric oxide.

Researchers also assert that damaged brain cells show improvement from the therapy. Mitochondria are units within the cell that reportedly produce a chemical called ATP. When the light therapy was applied, the mitochondria produced more of the ATP, which study doctor’s say leads to a clearer thought process. They assert that patients report increased verbal learning and better memory retention, along with more peaceful sleeping patterns and decreased symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Margaret Naeser is a research professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and lead investigator on the study. She is quoted in the article as stating, “We are applying a technology that’s been around for a while, but it’s always been used on the body, for wound healing and to treat muscle aches and pains, and joint problems. We’re starting to use it on the brain.”

The Skeptics

Treating TBIs with light therapy is still considered very experimental and, according to the report, it is not commonly covered by insurance policies. Further research studies are currently underway, including 160 Gulf War veterans. While 80 of the participants will receive 15 sessions of the light therapy, the remaining 80 will receive a placebo-like version, which will not emit real lights. Once the results are documented, the doctors will switch the groups to ensure that all of the veterans receive the treatment.

A similar study is underway to test the treatment on veterans with a dual diagnosis of TBI and PTSD. Additionally, research is being done to measure LED therapy on sleep patterns in veterans and to test an at-home version of the treatment, using only the nasal diodes without the helmet. According to Naeser, this treatment can add great value to the cognitive therapies currently being used to improve damaged brain functions.

The effects of a traumatic brain injury can prove devastating for the victim, as well as those who care for him or her. A capable attorney can assist in securing compensation from the responsible party.

If you or a loved is suffering with a severe brain injury at the hands of another, contact the experienced attorneys of Levin & Perconti at (312) 332-2872 for a free consultation.

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