What is Light Therapy and What Does it Have to Do with the Brain?
There are at least 32 proven usages of light therapy so far. Light therapy can affect a variety of different body parts including your brain. Unlike traditional treatments, light therapy has no side effects and can easily be used to treat a variety of different brain related conditions quickly and effectively. In some cases, there has been measurable improvement in as little as one treatment. Light therapy can be used to increase mental cognition, memory capacity, and help with mood related conditions. It is also an amazing substitute for all of the current mental cognition treatments and medications currently on the market. Using light as a natural medicine can save individuals hundreds of dollars from not having to pursue multiple avenues of treatment.
What is the Goal of Light Therapy?
Light is needed by your cells just like the body needs food to function. Light acts as nutrients for your cells, which allows them to perform at their best. Light can be the best medicine because it is a natural way to achieve a specific reaction in the body. We can easily influence the body to do what we are aiming for using specific wavelengths of light.
How Does Light Therapy Help with Depression?
Depression has been linked to blood flow. This means that patients with abnormal blood flow in their frontal cortex are more likely to experience depression than other individuals. When light therapy takes place, red light penetrates the skull and enters the brain. This causes an increase in blood flow which can help alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms. ATP production is also increased in the process. Consequently, this leads to a boost of Serotonin and Dopamine in the body which work to elevate the patient’s mood.
How Does Light Therapy Affect the Brain?
Short-term Mood and Hormone Regulation.
Light therapy can produce immediate positive effects to a patient’s mood and hormones. This can help people combating anxiety and depression in a significant way. In 2009, there was a study by Harvard that determined that just a few minutes of near-infrared light exposure would positively affect individuals with diagnosed long-term depression. Ten individuals were exposed to 16 minutes of near-infrared light during each individual session. The study lasted four weeks but these individuals showed mass improvement and symptom relief with just ONE session of infrared treatment!
Long-term Mood and Hormone Regulation.
Light therapy has even more potential in the long term when it comes to combating mental disease and mood boosting. More than half of the individuals in the study experienced a temporary relief of their symptoms by the end of the four-week study. 6 out of 10 individuals experienced relief from their depression symptoms. Similarly, 7 out of 10 individuals experienced relief from their anxiety symptoms. The Harvard study has shown that using light is a great substitute for medication. Other studies have also shown that the effects of light therapy are comparable to the effects of anti-depressant medications.
Increasing Mental Cognition and Memory Capacity.
Most of us have family members that suffer from a degeneration disease related to old age. In addition to helping increase mood, light therapy has also been widely considered as a potential treatment for elderly patients who suffer from Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. Studies have already shown that light therapy has the potential to increase the mental cognition of the elderly which would greatly impact individuals inflicted with these diseases. It could also help with the prevention of these diseases in the elderly. However, some studies have also shown that the cognitive benefits aren't limited to just the elderly. Younger patients and patients with traumatic brain injuries could also experience increased mental cognition through light therapy.
The Process to Increase Mental Cognition or Enhance Mood
Unfortunately, light therapy isn’t as simple as just shining a light at a patient and expecting to receive results. The effectiveness of the treatment depends on using the correct pulse rate, infrared light range, and power density. A wrong variable could make the treatment ineffective. For example, if the power density is too low, the light will be unable to penetrate a patient’s skull.
Here is an example treatment to improve mood and mental cognition. You should use a pulse rate of 40hz and a power density of 37 joules per cm2. The infrared rays used during the treatment should be in the 810 – 880nm range and the light should be aimed at the base of the skull and the frontal cortex. A treatment that lasts for 20 minutes with these specifications would lead to results comparable to the mentioned studies. This particular treatment is proven to increase dopamine and serotonin. It also leads to improvement in how the mitochondria in your cells function which can make an individual more energetic. This is because the mitochondria of the cell produce energy.
Reasons to Use Light Therapy Versus Medications
By using light therapy, patients are able to save time and money. Light therapy can be an extreme improvement compared to most treatments and medications out there for anxiety and depression. For example, most depression and anxiety medications take time to get into your system. There are medications called Benzodiazepines that do work immediately but the medications are extremely hard to be prescribed. This is due to individuals who have abused the medications in the past because of the addictive properties of the medications. Most doctors use these more addictive medications as a last resort when other types of medications fail.
Comparing Light Therapy to Normally Prescribed Medications
Slow-acting medications are usually the medications that are prescribed for anxiety and depression. An example of a slow acting medication for these conditions is Prozac. Doctors commonly prescribe Prozac. Unfortunately, users will receive no immediate effects from this medication. It takes up to two weeks for this medication to gradually get into your system. Individuals can experience anxiety or depression symptoms during this adjustment period. Unlike slow-acting Prozac, light therapy works immediately to help relieve anxiety and depression symptoms. It is also just as good for long term use.
Another difference between light therapy and medications is that medications tend to be addictive. You need to be weaned off of Prozac and many other similar medications due to your body becoming reliant on the medications to function normally. If you stop taking the Prozac all at once, you go through withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be similar to having a long-term flu and are very unpleasant to experience. Anxiety and depression medications alter brain function and you have to consistently supply your body with the medications. This is similar to replacing your depression or anxiety with an addictive substance.
Due to the lack of risk, light therapy is a great natural alternative to medication. In comparison to traditional medications, light therapy is non-addictive. You can stop getting therapy treatments at any time without going through withdrawal symptoms. There are also no side effects associated with being treated this way. Suffering individuals also do not have to wait in order to see effects which are also beneficial.
Charles, J. (n.d.). Red Light & Infrared Light Medicine Happier, Healthier, Stronger with LED Phototherapy.