Photobiomodulation and the brain: A new paradigm

Madison Hennessy, Michael R. Hamblin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)


Transcranial photobiomodulation (PBM), also known as low level laser therapy (LLLT), relies on the use of red/NIR light to stimulate, preserve and regenerate cells and tissues. The mechanism of action involves photon absorption in the mitochondria (cytochrome c oxidase), and ion channels in cells leading to activation of signaling pathways, up-regulation of transcription factors and increased expression of protective genes. We have studied PBM for treating traumatic brain injury in mice using a NIR laser spot delivered to the head. Mice had improved memory and learning, increased neuroprogenitor cells in the dentate gyrus and subventricular zone, increased BDNF and more synaptogenesis in the cortex. These highly beneficial effects on the brain suggest that the applications of LLLT are much broader than first conceived. Other groups have studied stroke (animal models and clinical trials), Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, depression and cognitive enhancement in healthy subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number013003
JournalJournal of Optics (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimers disease
  • brain disorders
  • low level laser therapy
  • psychiatric diseases
  • stroke
  • transcranial photobiomodulation
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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