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How light therapy heals brain injury

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Light therapy can help heal brain injuries—and it could also be harnessed as a treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression and autism.

Low-level light therapy restores connections in the brain following traumatic injury, say researchers who have tested it on 38 patients whose cognition had been affected, and damage was visible on scans.

The patients started getting light therapy within 72 hours of the injury by wearing a helmet that emits near-infrared light.  Recovery was tested over three weeks, and reconnections in the injured parts of the brain were greatest in the first week or two.

“The skull is quite transparent for near-infrared light.  Once you put the helmet on, your whole brain is bathed in this light,” said Rajiv Gupta, one of the researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital who carried out the study.

The 810-nanometer-wavelength light is already used for several brain disorders, he added.  “There are lots of disorders of connectivity, mostly in psychiatry, where this intervention may have a role, such as in PTSD, depression, and autism, which are all promising areas for light therapy.”

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References
Radiology, 2024; 311: 2; doi: 10.1148/radiol.230999
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