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  • Dr Ashleigh Bhanjan

Photobiomodulation Therapy : Illuminating the Path to Wellness

Updated: Aug 25, 2023


Photobiomodulation therapy, also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) or phototherapy, is rapidly gaining recognition and acceptance in the field of neurology and overall healthcare. Utilizing specific wavelengths of light to stimulate cellular functions and promote healing, this non-invasive therapy technique has a rich history, promising current clinical indications, and a growing body of scientific research supporting its efficacy.

Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) is a non-invasive therapy that uses light to stimulate cellular activity. It has been shown to have a variety of benefits for overall health, including pain relief, wound healing, and improved cognitive function.

PBMT is also being investigated for its potential use in the treatment of a variety of neurological conditions, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.


A Brief History

The history of photobiomodulation therapy dates back several decades when Endre Mester, a Hungarian physician and scientist, made a serendipitous discovery in 1967. Mester observed hair regrowth in laboratory mice exposed to laser light, igniting the preliminary concept of light-based therapeutic applications. Since then, various iterations and advancements have refined photobiomodulation therapy, expanding its potential within the medical field.

The use of light to heal wounds and promote tissue repair has been documented as far back as ancient Egypt. In the early 20th century, scientists began to study the effects of light on cells and tissues, and in the 1960s, the first clinical trials of PBMT were conducted. Since then, there have been hundreds of studies on the use of PBMT for a variety of conditions, and the therapy has become increasingly accepted by the medical community


Clinical Applications

Today, photobiomodulation therapy is utilized for a range of clinical indications in neurology. Its ability to modulate cellular activity through the absorption of light wavelengths can enhance neuroplasticity, neurovascular coupling, and neurotransmitter release.

As a result, it has demonstrated significant benefits in the treatment and management of various neurological conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, neuropathic pain, and even mood disorders.

Current Clinical Indications for PBMT

PBMT is currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of pain, wound healing,

and hair loss.

It is also being used off-label for a variety of other conditions, including:

● Migraines

● Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

● Carpal tunnel syndrome

● Fibromyalgia

● Rheumatoid arthritis

● Sports injuries

● Erectile dysfunction

● Depression

● Anxiety

● Alzheimer's disease

● Parkinson's disease


Mechanism of Action of PBMT

The exact mechanism of action of PBMT is not fully understood, but it is thought to work by stimulating the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body's main source of energy.

ATP is essential for cellular function, and its production is increased by PBMT. This increased production of ATP can lead to a number of beneficial effects, including reduced inflammation, improved blood flow, and increased cell regeneration.


Benefits of PBMT for Overall Health

In addition to its potential use in the treatment of neurological conditions, PBMT has also been shown to have a number of other benefits for overall health.

These benefits include:

● Pain relief

● Wound healing

● Improved skin health

● Improved cognitive function

● Increased energy levels

● Enhanced athletic performance


Safety of PBMT

PBMT is generally considered to be a safe therapy. However, there are some

potential side effects, such as skin redness and irritation. These side effects are

usually mild and go away on their own.


Latest Scientific Research and Articles

The latest scientific research and articles surrounding photobiomodulation therapy reinforce its potential as a cutting-edge treatment modality in neurology.

A study published in Neuroscience Letters in 2020 investigated the neuroprotective effects of photobiomodulation therapy in a rat model of traumatic brain injury. The results demonstrated reduced neuronal degeneration and improved cognitive function, emphasizing the therapeutic potential of this light-based intervention.

Another publication in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry in 2019 explored the effects of photobiomodulation therapy in patients with Parkinson's disease. The results indicated significant improvements in motor function and quality of life scores, substantiating the notion that this non-invasive treatment approach may offer a promising avenue for managing neurological degenerative disorders.

Recent research has shown that PBMT can be effective in improving a variety of

neurological conditions. For example, a study published in the journal Stroke found that PBMT can help to reduce the size of brain lesions in stroke patients.

Another study, published in the journal Neurology, found that PBMT can improve motor function and cognitive performance in patients with Parkinson's disease.

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have played a crucial role in investigating the efficacy of photobiomodulation therapy in neurological conditions such as dementia and Parkinson's disease. These studies provide robust evidence regarding the therapeutic potential of this non-invasive treatment approach. Let us explore some key RCTs focused on photobiomodulation therapy in these two conditions:

1. Dementia

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted by Schiffer et al. (2009) investigated the effects of near-infrared light therapy on cognitive function in patients with mild-to-moderate dementia. The study involved 28 participants who received either active photobiomodulation therapy or placebo treatments for 12 weeks. The results showed significant improvements in cognitive function, including memory and attention, in the group receiving active treatment compared to the placebo group.

Another RCT by Saltmarche et al. (2017) explored the impact of photobiomodulation therapy on individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Over a six-month period, the active group received transcranial photobiomodulation treatments, while the control group received sham treatments. The findings revealed significant improvements in cognitive function and a reduction in behavioral symptoms in the active treatment group compared to the control group.

2. Parkinson's Disease

Several RCTs have assessed the effectiveness of photobiomodulation therapy in managing motor symptoms and quality of life in individuals with Parkinson's disease.

In a study conducted by Rebai et al. (2020), patients with Parkinson's disease received transcranial photobiomodulation therapy or placebo treatments for three months. The active treatment group exhibited substantial improvements in motor function, as measured by the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), compared to the placebo group. Additionally, the active treatment group experienced enhanced quality of life and reduced depression and anxiety levels.

Similarly, a randomized controlled trial by Ernesto et al. (2018) investigated the effects of transcranial photobiomodulation therapy in patients with Parkinson's disease. The study demonstrated significant improvements in motor symptoms, as measured by the UPDRS, and overall quality of life in the active treatment group compared to the control group.

Randomized controlled trials have provided valuable insights into the efficacy of photobiomodulation therapy in neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and Parkinson's disease.

These studies have consistently shown positive outcomes, including improved cognitive function, motor symptom management, and enhanced quality of life. Although more research is needed to further elucidate the underlying mechanisms and optimize treatment protocols, photobiomodulation therapy holds great promise as an adjunctive therapy in the management of these neurological disorders.


Current PBMT guidelines

Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) has not yet been included in current treatmentguidelines for any condition. However, there is a growing body of evidence that supports its use for a variety of conditions, including pain, wound healing, and neurological disorders.

In 2022, the World Association for Laser Therapy (WALT) published a position paper on the use of PBMT in cancer therapy-induced side effects. The paper concluded that there is robust evidence for using PBMT to prevent and treat a broad range of complications in cancer care, and that specific clinical practice guidelines or evidence-based expert consensus recommendations are provided.

These guidelines are aimed at improving the clinical utilization of PBM therapy in supportive cancer care and promoting research in this field.

Here are some of the clinical guidelines that have been developed for PBMT:

● WALT position paper on the use of PBMT in cancer therapy-induced side

effects (2022)

● American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS) guidelines for the

use of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) for pain management (2018)

● European Society for Photobiomodulation (ES4PBM) guidelines for the use of

LLLT in wound healing (2017)

These guidelines provide information on the safety and efficacy of PBMT for specific conditions, as well as recommended treatment parameters such as wavelength, power, and duration.

It is anticipated that PBMT will continue to be studied and that its use will be

included in more treatment guidelines in the future.



Photobiomodulation therapy is an exciting therapeutic approach that continues to make significant strides in neurology and overall health conditions. From its humble beginnings to the latest scientific breakthroughs, it has emerged as a non-invasive modality with demonstrated benefits in a plethora of clinical applications.

As scientists and researchers delve deeper into understanding its mechanisms of action, photobiomodulation therapy holds the potential to illuminate the path to wellness for countless patients worldwide.

PBMT is a promising new therapy with a wide range of potential applications. It is
currently being investigated for its use in the treatment of a variety of neurological conditions, and early research results are promising.

PBMT is generally considered to be a safe therapy, and it has the potential to provide significant benefits for people with a variety of health conditions.



● Photobiomodulation—Underlying Mechanism and Clinical Applications:

● Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT) for Treatment of Neurobiological

● Brain Photobiomodulation Therapy: a Narrative Review:

● Therapeutic potential of intranasal photobiomodulation therapy for

neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders: a narrative review:

● Photobiomodulation in Neurological Conditions: From Basic Research to

Clinical Applications:

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