It sounds stranger than fiction, but it seems that light has the power to improve brain health.
So much so, that it looks set to treat people with neurological conditions.
One of the first trials, in which light is pulsed into the brain, showcased incredible results whereby five people with dementia saw significant improvement to their memories – even the two participants with the most severe case of the illness.
Now, a larger trial is set to take place to confirm that light can change brain chemistry.
The process, known as photobiomodulation, is a non-invasive and non-drug method that requires just 20 minutes of treatment per day.
The light waves then penetrate through the scalp, skull and brain, while a separate nasal clip channels light through the nostrils to the hippocampus – a key memory and learning area.
By penetrating the brain in this way, light targets the energy centre of each cell which triggers neuroprotective effects, self-repair mechanisms and enhanced function.
Speaking about the headset, developed by biotech company Vielight, inventor Dr Lew Lim explained how photobiomodulation introduces the therapeutic effect of light into the brain.
Dr Lim said: “It triggers the body to restore its natural balance… When we do that, we call upon the body’s innate ability to heal.”
He also explained how they have much bigger ambitions than the drug trials, with their focus on recovery not just prevention.
Dr Limm added: “Drug developers mainly seek to slow the mental decline in diagnosed cases or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s by intervening at the pre-symptomatic stage. We are confident of seeing some measure of recovery in the symptoms, not just a slowdown in the rate of decline.”
The first trial in 2017 which followed the five patients was conducted for 12 weeks, during which time no other treatment was given.
While researchers reported significant cognitive improvement, alongside increased function and better sleep, perhaps the best outcome came from improved quality of life.
One of the members of the clinical study team, Anita Saltmarche, revealed just how impressive the results were, in particular, with the two most severe cases.
Saltmarche said: “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.”
The new trials are currently taking place across the US and Canada, with results expected next year to hopefully create a huge shift for anyone affected by neurological conditions.