Beneficial neurocognitive effects of transcranial laser in older adults

Abstract

Transcranial infrared laser stimulation (TILS) at 1064 nm, 250 mW/cm2 has been proven safe and effective for increasing neurocognitive functions in young adults in controlled studies using photobiomodulation of the right prefrontal cortex. The objective of this pilot study was to determine whether there is any effect from TILS on neurocognitive function in older adults with subjective memory complaint at risk for cognitive decline (e.g., increased carotid artery intima-media thickness or mild traumatic brain injury). We investigated the cognitive effects of TILS in older adults (ages 49–90, n = 12) using prefrontal cortex measures of attention (psychomotor vigilance task (PVT)) and memory (delayed match to sample (DMS)), carotid artery intima-media thickness (measured by ultrasound), and evaluated the potential neural mechanisms mediating the cognitive effects of TILS using exploratory brain studies of electroencephalography (EEG, n = 6) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI, n = 6). Cognitive performance, age, and carotid artery intima-media thickness were highly correlated, but all participants improved in all cognitive measures after TILS treatments. Baseline vs. chronic (five weekly sessions, 8 min each) comparisons of mean cognitive scores all showed improvements, significant for PVT reaction time (p < 0.001), PVT lapses (p < 0.001), and DMS correct responses (p < 0.05). The neural studies also showed for the first time that TILS increases resting-state EEG alpha, beta, and gamma power and promotes more efficient prefrontal blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD)-fMRI response. Importantly, no adverse effects were found. These preliminary findings support the use of TILS for larger randomized clinical trials with this non-invasive approach to augment neurocognitive function in older people to combat aging-related and vascular disease-related cognitive decline.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

References

  1. 1.

    Anders JJ, Moges H, Wu X, Erbele ID, Alberico SL, Saidu EK, Smith JT, Pryor BA (2014) In vitro and in vivo optimization of infrared laser treatment for injured peripheral nerves. Lasers Surg Med 46(1):34–45

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Anders JJ, Lanzafame RJ, Arany PR (2015) Low-level light/laser therapy versus photobiomodulation therapy. Photomed Laser Surg 33(4):183–184

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Karu TI, Pyatibrat LV, Kolyakov SF, Afanasyeva NI (2005) Absorption measurements of a cell monolayer relevant to phototherapy: reduction of cytochrome c oxidase under near IR radiation. J Photochem Photobiol B Biol 81:98–106

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Wong-Riley MT, Liang HL, Eells JT, Chance B, Henry MM, Buchmann E, Kane M, Whelan HT (2005) Photobiomodulation directly benefits primary neurons functionally inactivated by toxins: role of cytochrome c oxidase. J Biol Chem 280:4761–4771

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Rojas JC, Lee J, John JM, Gonzalez-Lima F (2008) Neuroprotective effects of near-infrared light in an in vivo model of mitochondrial optic neuropathy. J Neurosci 28(50):13511–13521

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Rojas JC, Bruchey AK, Gonzalez-Lima F (2012) Low-level light therapy improves cortical metabolic capacity and memory retention. J Alzheimers Dis 32:741–752

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Wang X, Tian F, Soni SS, Gonzalez-Lima F, Liu H (2016) Interplay between up-regulation of cytochrome-c-oxidase and hemoglobin oxygenation induced by near-infrared laser. Sci Rep 6:30540

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Mochizuki-Oda N, Kataoka Y, Cui Y, Yamada H, Heya M, Awazu K (2002) Effects of near-infra-red laser irradiation on adenosine triphosphate and adenosine diphosphate contents of rat brain tissue. Neurosci Lett 323(3):207–210

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Rojas JC, Gonzalez-Lima F (2013) Neurological and psychological applications of transcranial lasers and LEDs. Biochem Pharmacol 86:447–457

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Rojas JC, Gonzalez-Lima F (2017) Transcranial low-level laser light therapy for neurocognitive enhancement. In: Hamblin MR, de Sousa MVP, Agrawal T (eds) Handbook of low-level laser therapy, 1st edn. Pan Stanford Publishing, Singapore, pp 1057–1076

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Hamblin MR (2016) Shining light on the head: photobiomodulation for brain disorders. BBA Clin 6:113–124

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Naeser MA, Martin PI, Ho MD, Krengel MH, Bogdanova Y, Knight JA, Yee MK, Zafonte R, Frazier J, Hamblin MR, Koo BB (2016) Transcranial, red/near-infrared light-emitting diode therapy to improve cognition in chronic traumatic brain injury. Photomed Laser Surg 34(12):610–626

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Barrett DW, Gonzalez-Lima F (2013) Transcranial infrared laser stimulation produces beneficial cognitive and emotional effects in humans. Neuroscience 230:13–23

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Blanco NJ, Maddox WT, Gonzalez-Lima F (2015) Improving executive function using transcranial infrared laser stimulation. J Neuropsychol May 28

  15. 15.

    Blanco NJ, Saucedo CL, Gonzalez-Lima F (2017) Transcranial infrared laser stimulation improves rule-based, but not information-integration, category learning in humans. Neurobiol Learn Mem 139:69–75

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Hwang J, Castelli DM, Gonzalez-Lima F (2016) Cognitive enhancement by transcranial laser stimulation and acute aerobic exercise. Lasers Med Sci 31(6):1151–1160

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Disner SG, Beevers CG, Gonzalez-Lima F (2016) Transcranial laser stimulation as neuroenhancement for attention bias modification in adults with elevated depression symptoms. Brain Stimul 9(5):780–787

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Wang X, Tian F, Reddy DD, Nalawade SS, Barrett DW, Gonzalez-Lima F, Liu H (2017) Up-regulation of cerebral cytochrome-c-oxidase and hemodynamics by transcranial infrared laser stimulation: a broadband near infrared spectroscopy study. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab (in press).

  19. 19.

    Tian F, Hase SN, Gonzalez-Lima F, Liu H (2016) Transcranial laser stimulation improves human cerebral oxygenation. Lasers Surg Med 48(4):343–349

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Rojas JC, Gonzalez-Lima F (2011) Low-level light therapy of the eye and brain. Eye Brain 3:49–67

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Gonzalez-Lima F, Barrett DW (2014) Augmentation of cognitive brain functions with transcranial lasers. Front Syst Neurosci 8:36

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Haley AP, Sweet LH, Gunstad J, Forman DE, Poppas A, Paul RH, Tate DF, Cohen RA (2007) Verbal working memory and atherosclerosis in patients with cardiovascular disease. An fMRI study. J Neuroimaging 17(3):227–233

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Nguyen-Thanh HT, Benzaquen BS (2009) Screening for subclinical coronary artery disease measuring carotid intima media thickness. Am J Cardiol 104(10):1383–1388

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Gonzalez-Lima F, Barksdale BR, Rojas JC (2014) Mitochondrial respiration as a target for neuroprotection and cognitive enhancement. Biochem Pharmacol 88:584–593

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Schiffer F, Johnston AL, Ravichandran C, Polcari A, Teicher MH, Webb RH, Hamblin MR (2009) Psychological benefits 2 and 4 weeks after a single treatment with near infrared light to the forehead: a pilot study of 10 patients with major depression and anxiety. Behav Brain Funct 5:46–59

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Gonzales MM, Kaur S, Eagan D, Goudarzi KK, Pasha E, Doan D, Tanaka H, Haley AP (2014) Central adiposity and the functional magnetic resonance imaging response to cognitive challenge. Int J Obes 38(9):1193–1199

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Palva S, Palva JM (2011) Functional roles of alpha-band phase synchronization in local and large-scale cortical networks. Front Psychol 2:204

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Tanaka M, Shigihara Y, Ishii A, Funakura M, Kanai E, Watanabe Y (2012) Effect of mental fatigue on the nervous system: an electroencephalography study. Behav Brain Funct 8:48

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Basar E (2013) A review of gamma oscillations in healthy subjects and in cognitive impairment. Int J Psychophysiol 90(2):99–117

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Stephanie Oleson and Alex Birdill, who were instrumental in collecting the fMRI data; Evan Pasha, the carotid ultrasound data; and Revanth Poondla, Angelymar Fuentes, Nadia Abdo, and Veronica Almendarez, the behavioral data. EV was supported by a student research fellowship, and FGL was supported by a faculty research fellowship from the College of Liberals Arts of the University of Texas at Austin. This study was supported in part by grants from the National Institute on Aging (R21 AG055772) and the Darrell K. Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. Gonzalez-Lima.

Ethics declarations

Funding

This study was supported in part by grants from the National Institute on Aging (R21 AG055772) and the Darrell K. Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants

All procedures were approved by the University of Texas at Austin Institutional Review Board (IRB) and were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vargas, E., Barrett, D.W., Saucedo, C.L. et al. Beneficial neurocognitive effects of transcranial laser in older adults. Lasers Med Sci 32, 1153–1162 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10103-017-2221-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Brain photobiomodulation
  • Infrared laser
  • Attention
  • Memory
  • EEG
  • fMRI