Wednesday, May 18

Infrared light through the nose? This can improve our brain


It is no secret that our body reacts to light. Like most living beings on the planet, we are subject to the rhythm of night and day. Specifically, melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep, is activated when the light begins to decline in the afternoon. Therefore, exposure to artificial light with bluish tones can interfere with sleep.

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But there is much more. Seasonal affective disorder due to lack of light in the winter months affects 3% of the population, a percentage that rises to 20% among those who already suffer from depression. On the other hand, strobe lights can cause epileptic seizures in those who suffer from this disease. Whether we like it or not, light affects our brain.

However, most of the neurons in our brain live in the dark, protected inside the skull. The exception are the eyes, which are considered a part of the brainthe only one that looks out.

But what would happen if we drilled a hole in the head and shined light of a certain frequency onto the neurons? The experiment has already been done, but with mice, of course.

In a experiment with live mice optic fibers were inserted into their brains, which reached the neurons in the deepest part. With this, they managed to activate the ventral tegmental area, the part of the brain that is associated with reward.

Get to the brain without drilling

Although Elon Musk is working on it with his company Neuralink, experiments with people do not allow drilling holes in their skulls. However, high-intensity infrared light can be applied, of which 5% will penetrate the brain, enough to stimulate neurons on the surface. Specific, one experiment applied infrared light to the motor cortex, which is located under the top of the head, with which it was possible to improve the participants’ ability to learn movements. This opens the door for treatment of Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy with this technique.

The light frequency used, a combination of 633nm red light and 830nm near-infrared light, is already being used successfully to improve skin healing, relieve joint pain, treat psoriasis and alopecia. The explanation for these benefits is that infrared light, if it is intense enough, is capable of penetrating up to five millimeters into the skin without causing damage and stimulates the mitochondria, the energy factories inside our cells and whose deterioration is very linked to ageing.

Neurons also have mitochondria and for the same reason it is reasonable to assume that, by exposing them to the correct frequency of light, it would be possible to activate them and fight, for example, neurodegenerative diseases. This is the beginning of optogenetics, which consists of controlling the activity of neurons and other cells through light. In these cells there are enzymes or ion channels that are sensitive to certain frequencies of light.

Other experiments have used lasers to activate different areas of the brain from outside the head, and have been shown to improve the condition of patients who have suffered a heart attack, depression or stroke. brain traumaand that too increase cognitive abilities and improve emotional state.

light through the nose

However, the problem of reaching deep parts of the brain without drilling into the skull remains. Another approach is called intranasal photobiomodulation, which, as its name suggests, consists of introducing the light source through the nose.

The sinuses of the nasal cavity are close to areas of the brain where lighting can help. Among other things, the photobiomodulation through the nose It can be used for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cerebrovascular diseases, depression and anxiety, as well as insomnia. Infrared light, among other things, increases blood flow and the production of NO (nitrous oxide, essential for the functioning of the body) and this explains the improvement of these disorders.

Pulsed light has also been used for the induction of brain waves, similar to sound. Specifically, in a study published by Natureexposure to flashing infrared light 40 times per second elicited gamma-type brain waves, associated with alertness and concentration.

The question is if putting light through the nose works to improve our brain, can we do it at home? On the Internet you can buy for about 100 euros intranasal devices with red light (not infrared) that are supposed to treat sinusitis and allergic rhinitis. However, studies have not been able to show that they work for this purpose.

the american company Vielight sells much more advanced devices that combine infrared light and red light, intranasal and transcranial stimulation, although the prices are much higher. In addition to these commercial initiatives, researchers are studying the possibility of implanting LED lights in the nasal cavity for permanent treatment of neurological diseases.

* Darío Pescador is editor and director of the quo magazine and author of the book your best self Posted by Oberon.

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Photo: Vielight



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