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  • Dr. Miki Gordon

Infrared Light and Parkinson's Disease: Is there a connection?

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects neurons in the brain and their ability to regulate dopamine. This can cause difficulties with muscle rigidity, speech, mobility, tremors, and many other areas of functioning. While there are medications that can help, there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s.

The disease usually progresses as mobility and speech become further impaired.

However, there has been some interesting research into treating Parkinson’s with infrared light. Multiple researchers have found beneficial effects of Near Infrared (NIR) light for the treatment of Parkinson’s (Liang et al., 2008; Whelan et al., 2008; Ying et al., 2008; Shaw et al., 2010; Peoples et al., 2012; Moro et al., 2013, 2014; Vos et al., 2013;; Darlot et al., 2015; El Massri et al., 2015).

These studies found that NIR is neuroprotective (meaning it can protect neurons in the brain from potential damage). However, many of these studies involved intercranial NIR, meaning that surgery was performed to allow NIR to penetrate the cranium or skull. However, a recent study by Stone et al (2013) found that even using light on the body and excluding the head produced neuroprotective factors (protection for neurons in the brain from disease), leading them to believe that the immune system is also involved in the benefits of NIR for Parkinson’s. Researchers also found that there were no side effects for patients receiving the NIR.

Additionally there has been some research on transcranial NIR applied with a helmet by the QuietMind Foundation that has anecdotally shown improvement for a patient – see the video HERE. While more research is needed, the current studies are promising and could indicate that near infrared light is a treatment option for those suffering from Parkinson’s. While we are waiting for more human trials, The Salt Oasis Kingsport offers infrared lamp and sauna therapy that may be helpful for many conditions.

Stone, J, Johnstone, D, Mitrofanis, J. 2013. The helmet experiment in Parkinson's disease: An observation of the mechanism of neuroprotection by near infra-red light. Proceedings of the 9th World Association for Laser Therapy Congress, WALT 2012

Liang H. L., Whelan H. T., Eells J. T., Wong-Riley M. T. T. (2008). Near-infrared light via light-emitting diode treatment is therapeutic against rotenone- and 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion-induced neurotoxicity. Neuroscience 153, 963–974. 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.03.042

Whelan H. T., DeSmet K. D., Buchmann E. V., Henry M. M., Wong-Riley M., Eells J. T., et al. . (2008). Harnessing the cell's own ability to repair and prevent neurodegenerative disease. SPIE Newsroom 24, 1–3. 10.1117/2.1200802.1014

Ying R., Liang H. L., Whelan H. T., Eells J. T., Wong-Riley M. T. T. (2008). Pretreatment with near-infrared light via light-emitting diode provides added benefit against rotenone- and MPP+-induced neurotoxicity. Brain Res. 1243, 167–173. 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.09.057

Shaw V. E., Peoples C., Spana S., Ashkan K., Benabid A.-L., Stone J., et al. . (2012). Patterns of cell activity in the subthalamic region associated with the neuroprotective action of near-infrared light treatment in MPTP-Treated Mice. Parkinsons. Dis. 2012:296875. 10.1155/2012/296875

Peoples C., Spana S., Ashkan K., Benabid A.-L., Stone J., Baker G. E., et al. . (2012). Photobiomodulation enhances nigral dopaminergic cell survival in a chronic MPTP mouse model of Parkinson's disease. Parkinsonism Relat. Disord. 18, 469–476. 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2012.01.005

Moro C., El Massri N., Torres N., Ratel D., De Jaeger X., Chabrol C., et al. . (2014). Photobiomodulation inside the brain: a novel method of applying near-infrared light intracranially and its impact on dopaminergic cell survival in MPTP-treated mice. J. Neurosurg. 120, 670–683.

Vos M., Lovisa B., Geens A., Morais V. A., Wagnières G., van den Bergh H., et al. . (2013). Near-infrared 808 nm light boosts complex IV-dependent respiration and rescues a Parkinson-related pink1 Model. PLoS ONE 8:e78562. 10.1371/journal.pone.0078562

Darlot F., Moro C., El Massri N., Chabrol C., Johnstone D. M., Reinhart F., et al. . (2015). Near-infrared light is neuroprotective in a monkey model of Parkinson's disease. Ann. Neurol. 10.1002/ana.24542.

El Massri N., Johnstone D. M., Peoples C. L., Moro C., Reinhart F., Torres N., et al. . (2015). The effect of different doses of near infrared light on dopaminergic cell survival and gliosis in MPTP-treated mice. Int. J. Neurosci. 10.3109/00207454.2014.994063

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition. Do not make any changes to your healthcare or treatment without consulting your physician.