The Value of Infrared Light Therapy and Benefits for Brain Health

The Value of Infrared Light Therapy and Benefits for Brain Health

Infrared light therapy, sometimes called low-level light therapy (LLLT) and photo bio-modulation, has become increasingly popular as people seek new ways to improve their overall health and well-being. A large part of this therapy’s appeal is that it is relatively simple and non-invasive, with few side effects.

It has promising results in treating a variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, moderate traumatic brain injury, brain disorders, and stroke.

In this article, we’ll look at how red light therapy works and what the research says about its effectiveness in treating neurological conditions.

What Is Infrared Light Therapy?

As we talked about, Infrared light therapy is a type of photo bio-modulation, which means it uses light to modulate (or change) biological processes.

Photo bio-modulation is a relatively new field, but it’s based on the well-established science of phototherapy, which has been used for centuries to treat various conditions, including jaundice in newborns and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Red light therapy delivers red and near-infrared light therapy to the cells in your body. These wavelengths of light are absorbed by the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cells.

The mitochondria then convert this light into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the cells’ main energy source. This increase in ATP production leads to a cascade of beneficial effects, including:

- Increased production of mitochondria

- Increased nitric oxide production

- Reduced inflammation

- Stimulated cell regeneration

All of these effects can have a profound impact on brain health.

How does Red Light Influence Cognitive Function?

LED-equipped devices used in red light treatment shine a restricted spectrum of light onto the skin.  This light is composed of different wavelengths, each with a unique effect on the body.

Red and near-infrared light have the ability to penetrate the skull and reach deep into the brain. Once there, they stimulate mitochondrial activity, leading to improved cognitive function.

Nanometers (nm) are units of measurement for light wavelength, and their spectrum spans both the visible red spectrum (630–660 nm) and the infrared (800–1400 nm) (810 to 850 nm).

Extensive research shows that exposure to these wavelengths has a profound stimulating effect on the human body.

Researchers also believe red light may be effective in boosting brain cell metabolism and reducing inflammation based on encouraging clinical experiments explicitly examining the impact of red light on brain health, as well as encouraging anecdotal reports.

These outcomes are key to improving general brain function, treating psychiatric diseases, and speeding up wound healing following brain injury or a stroke.

Red light therapy can potentially be an effective treatment for brain health since its red and, in particular, near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths are long enough to permeate human tissue and even bone.

But the next question arises: Can red light therapy penetrate the brain? The answer is yes! How does it do it? What does medical science say?

Infrared Light Therapy and The Brain: Does it Work?

The short answer is: yes! Infrared light therapy can penetrate the brain.

To understand how deep red and NIR light is absorbed into the brain, consider the following illustration.

A research paper published in 2017 discovered that the subcutaneous layer of tissue just under the dermis might absorb visible red wavelengths between 610 nm and 670 nm to a maximum depth of between 4 cm and 5 cm.

The same research showed that NIR light could penetrate human tissue to a depth of more than 5 mm (about 2 inches) at its maximum (810 nm, 830 nm, 850 nm). It says the thickness of a human skull, measured at the forehead, is between 6.8 and 7.7 mm (.275 and.1 inch).

It lets us know that Infrared light therapy devices with LEDs that emit 810 nm,830 nm, and 850 nm can potentially penetrate the brain's protective skull, meninges (a three-layer deep form of tissue that covers and protects the brain), and cerebrospinal fluid.

Do wavelengths of infrared light greater than 1000 nm benefit brain health in any way?

All electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength between 760 and 2,500 nanometers is classified as infrared (IR) radiation. Red and near-infrared light are typically used in low-level light treatment (LLLT) or photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy to modify biological function. 

The therapeutic benefits of IR are affected by many different situations and parameters, including:

  • Fluency
  • Irradiance
  • Treatment time and repetition, 
  • Pulse, and 
  • Wavelength

There is mounting evidence that IR can facilitate photo-stimulation and photobiomodulation effects that are particularly useful in stimulating neuronal activity, treating Alzheimer's,  promoting wound healing, and combating cancer. Infrared (IR) light has been proposed for a variety of neuro-stimulation and neuro-modulation applications due to its potent effect on nerve cells. The IR helmets are have found to be effective in neural stimulation and regeneration as they use IR light and are convenient to use even in the comfort of your home. The latest research is pointing to NIR in the 1070nm range as particularly beneficial. 

How Does Light  Reach the Cerebral Cortex?

The cerebral cortex is the wrinkled outermost layer of the brain. It is about 2-4 mm thick, and its surface area is about 2200 cm2. The cerebral cortex is the primary site of processing and integrating information from all senses except smell.

Most treatments of red light therapy include using a device that shines a light on the forehead, an area where the skull is relatively thin and where the brain absorbs it. The light penetrates the skull and enters the cerebral cortex.

It is also possible to focus on other parts of the brain, albeit those with thick hair would have a lesser absorption depth.

In fact, medical Scientists have speculated that if red light were administered intra-nasally (via the nose), it might be better absorbed by brain cells. In order to maximize absorption and target specific regions of the brain, a person undergoing red light therapy using an LED (light emitting diodes) device could alternate between:

  • Trans-cranial (through the forehead)
  • Intra-nasial (through the nose)
  • Intra-oral (through the mouth)
  • Intracranial (through the ear or just behind the ear where it is little or no hair)

In this way, a person could target different brain regions with each session to maximize results.

Now, the main question is: What effects does red light therapy have on the brain?

What Effects Does IR Light Have on the Brain?

IR light therapy works on the level of individual cells to bring about beneficial effects. In this way, red light promotes health, particularly brain health, from the inside out, in contrast to drugs and other therapies that merely cover symptoms or work on a gross anatomical level.

Multiple processes work here, all of which help the body heal and function optimally, especially the brain.

Let's look at the top research-based benefits of red light therapy for brain health.

1) Protection of the Nervous System Against Degenerative Brain Diseases

One of the most exciting potential applications of red light therapy is its ability to protect the nervous system against degenerative brain diseases. 

A growing body of evidence suggests that red light therapy can help to protect the brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

In fact, the most frequent type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel supplying oxygen and nutrients to the brain becomes blocked. In 2007 researchers from Israel observed red light therapy helped those who had suffered an ischemic stroke.

What they found:

Neuro-protective advantages (protecting neurons from injury) and significant improvements were observed in the group that underwent red light therapy with moderate to severe strokes treated with 810 nm near-infrared light.

Patients exhibited considerable improvement five days later compared to those who were not (control group)

In fact, after 90 days, the treatment group had a higher rate of success (70%) than the control group (51%). This study provides strong evidence that near-infrared light can help protect and heal the brain after a stroke.

The effectiveness of near-infrared light treatment for the brain was evaluated by Iranian researchers in 2018 and named "Evaluation of preclinical and clinical evidence." It found that NIR wavelengths have a protective effect on the nervous system.

Michael R. Hamblin, an internationally recognized researcher in photobiomodulation PBM, recently conducted a study on Alzheimer's disease in 2019. His research also showed that red light aids neuro-protection, which protects patients' survival and longevity and reduces aberrant cell death brought on by inflammation.

So, it means that red light therapy effectively treats not just one but many degenerative brain diseases.

2) Enhanced Brain Cell (Neuronal) Functioning

One of the most significant advantages of red light therapy is enhanced metabolic cell functioning.

In other words, cells are able to produce more energy (ATP) and function at a higher level with red light therapy which was observed in the same study conducted by Michael R. Hamblin.

When absorbed by the body, red and near-infrared (NIR) light photons trigger the mitochondria to produce more metabolic energy.

Mitochondria, sometimes known as cellular "batteries," are the powerhouses of every type of cell, from nerve cells (neurons) in the brain to stem cells derived from bone marrow. Basically, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the fundamental fuel for most cells, and red light therapy has been shown to induce mitochondria to create more of it. Boosting cellular energy levels ultimately improves their performance.

When we feel oxidative stress and inflammation, it results from mitochondrial dysfunction when mitochondria cannot generate enough ATP. This is where red light therapy comes in, reversing those effects, improving mitochondrial function, and thus promoting optimal cell functioning and health. This results in reduced inflammation, less oxidative stress, and enhanced neuronal.

In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction is a primary contributor to the development of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases. A study published by Case Western University found it.

IR-light also works to improve other brain activities like:

  • Better cognitive function
  • Faster reaction time
  • Mood stabilization (reducing depression and anxiety)
  • Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Helps enhance neurogenesis and synaptogenesis.
  • It also increases the brain’s stem cell production.

3) Full-Body Benefits

Did you know that you have more than 78 billion neurons in your body responsible for sending signals from your brain to the rest of your body?  Since red light therapy can penetrate through the skin to a depth of about 8-10 inches, it can provide full-body benefits.

Red light therapy has numerous positive effects on the brain, including increased focus, better memory, and thought process. All of these effects work together to help improve your quality of life. In fact, it can help with skin roughness, skin tissues,

So, not only does red light therapy help improve cognitive function, but it can also help improve your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, and promote better sleep.


LED Red light therapy device is a safe, effective, and non-invasive treatment that can benefit your brain. From reducing inflammation and oxidative stress to enhancing cognitive function and full-body benefits, there are many reasons to try red light therapy.

Red light therapy might be the answer if you’re looking for a way to improve your overall health and well-being.

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