Unlocking the potential of light therapy for brain health | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Unlocking the potential of light therapy for brain health

Have you ever wondered how light can improve brain health? Researchers at UniSC's Thompson Institute aim to explore this through the innovative use of Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT).

About the study

We're studying a cutting-edge technology that uses special infrared light to stimulate the brain.

This is a pilot study to assess its feasibility, with explorative investigation into potential effectiveness on thinking skills and brain function.

This research could pave the way for new therapies that are both safe and noninvasive.

How you can help

If you are a healthy adult aged 50-85 years, we invite you to be a part of this transformative research.

Participation involves sitting comfortably under a device similar to a hooded hair dryer which emits infrared light onto your scalp.

Each session lasts about 30-60 minutes, and there is little to no discomfort involved. Additionally, across the trial there will be a total reimbursement of $800.

What participation involves

Participation in this study lasts 14 weeks and includes:

Photo-biomodulation therapy

PBMT is a safe and non-invasive modality which uses either visible red or near infrared light to stimulate, heal, and repair damaged or dying tissue cells. It is a growing approach to multiple different brain disorders which include neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia).

Self-report questionnaires

The self-report questionnaires will ask about your mental health, overall wellbeing, day-to-day functioning, alcohol consumption, and sleep quality. Other demographic information, such as your employment status, education level, and medical history.

Cognitive assessments

Cambridge Automated Neuropsychological Test Assessment Battery (CANTAB) is a fully automated, self administered neuropsychological test battery presented on an iPad. Once the participant details have been entered, all instructions and practice trials are delivered by CANTAB and the participant responds as instructed by the CANTAB. Researcher involvement is rarely required, and predominantly only to pause a test protocol should a participant require a rest break. The tests will cover cognitive domains such as memory, information processing and speed as well as executive functioning.

Brain imaging

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive form of brain imaging which utilises the natural magnetic properties of water molecules to generate signal and therefore build up a 3D map of all the different tissues within the body. These scans can assess structural, functional, and chemical changes in the brain. As part of this protocol, you will be asked to complete a cognitive task in the MRI. EEG Recording: Electroencephalography (EEG) is a non-invasive method for measuring brain activity using electrodes placed on the scalp. It captures real-time fluctuations in electrical voltage to monitor different brain states and cognitive processes. As part of this protocol, you'll be asked to perform a cognitive task while connected to an EEG machine.

Why this study is important

Alzheimer’s disease is a common debilitating neurodegenerative disease with limited treatments to prevent the physical deterioration of the brain.

PBMT is a growing approach to many different brain disorders that may be classified as neurodegenerative (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, dementia) or psychiatric (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder).

PBMT is a safe, non-invasive, and non-thermal modality that is based on a strong body of research dating back to the 1980s.

Also known as low-level laser (or light) therapy, it uses either visible red or near infrared light to stimulate, heal, and repair damaged or dying tissue cells.

Express your interest

This study might be a good fit for you if you:

  • are aged 50-85 years old
  • are not diagnosed with any neurodegenerative diseases (eg dementia, mild cognitive impairment)
  • do not have any significant psychiatric history (eg psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression)
  • do not have any unstable medical (eg severe hypertension) or neurological condition
  • do not have any severe cardiovascular disease, history of stroke, recent myocardial infraction
  • are willing to undergo MRI scanning and PBMT therapy and undertake cognitive assessments

Contact us

For further information, please email the Healthy Brain Ageing team or phone the Thompson Institute.