Episode 4: The Healing Power of Light
Updated: Jan 13
In Sarah's latest episode of Rebel Scientist, she takes a deep dive into her favorite topic of applying red light therapy to heal and energize the brain.
History of light healing the brain
Red light devices
Mitochondria - the powerhouse of the cell and also where the light is received
Using light to heal the brain has a long history:
Ancient cultures including Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese practiced phototherapy for mental health utilizing the healing rays of the sun. The name “heliotherapy” was first used in the 2nd century BC by the Greek doctor Hippocrates, who was also called the “father” of medical science. Hippocrates taught the value of sun exposure in the restoration of health. Hippocrates introduced the benefits and healing powers of sunlight from his journeys to Egypt, where sunlight treatments were well known
The Hungarian physician, Endre Mester, developed the first low-level laser therapy device in 1967 and tested its effects on skin cancer. He accidentally discovered the healing effect of laser light on wound healing processes when he stimulated hair regrowth and wound healing in experimental rats, at the sites where tumors had been implanted.
The FDA first approved a low-level laser therapy device in 2002.
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell - where the body’s energy is generated. We have the most mitochondria in tissue that uses the most energy - like the brain, heart and large muscles. Mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in the formation of neuroinflammation and oxidative stress, which are important factors contributing to the development of brain disease. Ample evidence suggests mitochondria are a promising target for neuroprotection. Embedded in the membrane of mitochondria, an enzyme - cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) - is one of the most well documented light receivers. Mitochondria are environmental sensors. They signal to the cell which genes to switch on and off
Red light is a signal to switch on healing and growth factors, this is tissue specific – in the brain leads to repair of brain cells.
Red light therapy is therefore linked with improvement of brain mitochondrial respiration - which has an impact on all brain function.
The brain is 75% water, water absorbs light at 940nm and above. Red and NIR light therefore changes the viscosity of the water inside the mitochondrial matrix - making the ATPase work more effectively.
Sarah is a leading expert in the field of transcranial photobiomodulation - or red light therapy for the brain:
Involved in PD trial – Quietmind Foundation
Research for Biohacking movie on light and water
Science Advisor Light Tree Ventures
There are many clinical applications of transcranial red light therapy:
AD/PD – Dementia
Concussions / TBI / CTE
Depression and anxiety
Covid19 brain symptoms
Biohacking applications for transcranial red light therapy
Focus / meditation
How to get light into the head?
Intranasal or intrabuccal (via nose or mouth)
Brain stem and cerebellum
Default Mode Network
In Tasmania they made their own home-made red light devices using buckets:
‘’Grace spends 40 minutes each day with a bucket on her head — a device she claims is making a significant difference to her life’’
Sarah was involved in a study on the use of near infrared light on Parkinson's disease, the data was collected in part at the QuietMind foundation in Philadelphia under the guidance of Dr. Marvin Berman and under the supervision of Dr. Huang of Baylor, Scott and White in Texas. The results of the study are currently being written up - preliminary data shows a positive effect.
Follow these Sarah approved top tips:
See the sunrise (red light)
Ground - (bare feet on the ground)
Blue light filters on screens - limit screen time
Light in the home and office - full spectrum in the day - orange hues in the evening
Blue Blocker glasses
‘Solar callus’ - building up exposure to sunlight
Sleep routine - use a tracking device
Need an hour or so deep sleep every night
Use a red light device of a suitable wavelength and power
Transcranial red light devices: