More and more, researchers are finding that the earlier we identify the risk of dementia, the more we can do to—maybe not stop it, but at least to slow down the progress of the disease. Eventually, the hope is that, identified early enough, we can stop it! But in the meantime, here is an interesting study about using infrared light to treat early-stage dementia.
Infrared light has been shown to speed healing of a wide range of issues, from common cold sores, to chronic pain to eye injuries. The Quietmind Foundation in Pennsylvania is exploring how well it works with EARLY STAGE dementia. They found that it worked well with mice and have moved on to human studies. They hope to show that the treatment increases cerebral blood flow, oxygenation, and facilitate removal of toxic proteins with repeated brief (6 min) exposure to infrared light stimulation. The researchers believe this will improve damaged executive functions (including attention, working memory, strategies of learning and remembering, planning, organizing, self-monitoring, inhibition, and flexible thinking).
LBD is known for its loss of executive functions vs. the memory losses of those with AD. Thus, this study of special importance to the LBD community. Quietmind reports that in a small preliminary study, people with early stage dementia wore a helmet with 700 LED lights that penetrated the skull. Results after eight weeks showed significant improvement. Caregivers of subjects made remarks like, “He hasn’t done that in three years” and “I have my husband back.” English author, Sir Terry Pratchett, tried the helmet in 2007 in an effort to retard his early-onset dementia. His improvement after three months was minimal However, the progressive disease didn’t get any worse either and that is definitely a positive.
Although the results sound hopeful, it is far too early to celebrate. There are many questions and concerns. Some experts don’t believe the infrared can penetrate the human skull—and thus, a placebo effect was likely responsible for any improvement in the preliminary group. Or perhaps, the tests used to identify the subjects’ level of disabilities going into the study weren’t accurate. Or…etc. Quietmind hopes to answer all these questions and more with carefully designed clinical trials, for which they are presently seeking subjects. (more information)
Others have used also infrared—or sometimes yellow--lights in dementia research. (reference) One group that used LED lights to evaluate planning abilities also measured the system’s transmission factor (TF) on the human skull. They found that the TF of infrared laser light and infrared LED light radiation did not differ significantly. This measurement provides some standards so that an answer to the experts’ question about penetration adequate for therapy.
One 2013 study used low-level laser therapy (LLLT) to protect against AD induced neuron damage. Naturally much more research will be needed before this will be of any value to the average person, but if it works, it could actually stop the disease progress. There would need to be more research to test for effectiveness against Lewy bodies as well.
Most studies used infrared—and sometimes yellow--light for diagnostic purposes methods, mainly to identify various dementia-related substances in eyes, blood and other areas of the body more easily accessed than the brain.
It all adds up to there being a lot going on to improve our ability to identify LBD, and then treat it--and someday, stop it or even eradicate it. That's a long way off, but in the meantime, the word for the day is EARLY. If you think you or a loved one may have even mild dementia, do something about it. If you wait, it really will be too late for more than treating the symptoms.
Next week: Cholesterol and Dementia
For about Lewy body disorders read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson’s & Other Lewy Body Disorders