Photobiomodulation Therapy for Dementia: A Systematic Review of Pre-Clinical and Clinical Studies

Farzad Salehpour, Mahsa Khademi, Michael R. Hamblin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Photobiomodulation (PBM) involves the use of red and/or near-infrared light from lasers or LEDs to improve a wide range of medical disorders. Transcranial PBM, sometimes accompanied by intranasal PBM, has been tested to improve many brain disorders, including dementia. Objective: To conduct a systematic review according to PRISMA guidelines of pre-clinical and clinical studies reporting the use of PBM, which were considered relevant to dementia. Methods: Literature was searched between 1967 and 2020 using a range of keywords relevant to PBM and dementia. The light source and wavelength(s), output power, irradiance, irradiation time, fluence or total energy (dose), operation mode (continuous or pulsed) irradiation, approach and site, number of treatment sessions, as well as study outcome(s) were extracted. Results: Out of 10,473 initial articles, 36 studies met the inclusion criteria. Nine articles reported in vitro studies, 17 articles reported studies in animal models of dementia, and 10 studies were conducted in dementia patients. All of the included studies reported positive results. The clinical studies were limited by the small number of patients, lack of placebo controls in some instances, and only a few used objective neuroimaging methods. Conclusion: The preliminary evidence of clinical benefit, the lack of any adverse effects, and the remarkable ease of use, suggest larger clinical trials should be conducted as soon as possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1431-1452
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • cognition
  • dementia
  • learning
  • low-level light therapy
  • memory
  • photobiomodulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental Health


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