Everyone knows to some extend how dangerous head injuries can be. This is why doctors recommend individuals visit a physician if they receive any sort of head trauma, even if it seems unimportant. Of course, some people are more prone to brain injuries than others, like professional NFL players. In fact, there has recently been a push by researchers to help support football players dealing with brain disease. Wouldn’t it be nice if this sort of brain injury could be cured though? Doctors Theodore Henderson and Larry Morries thought so, which is why they set out to do a study on infrared light’s ability to heal brain injuries.
One of the first challenges these doctors had to solve was whether or not they could even find a light that would effectively reach the brain. They began by comparing the penetration levels of near infrared light (NIR) from light-emitting diodes (LED) to see if they could have any impact on the brain tissue. The low-power infrared light could not even penetrate fully into the human skin, which meant that it would not do much for reaching the brain. Upon pushing further into the high-power light spectrum (around 980 and 808 nm wavelengths), they found different results though.
When they used this higher-powered infrared light, Henderson and Morries found that they could reach depths of up to 3 cm into the brain, which is what they were hoping to achieve. While doing so, they also found that the light did not cause any noticeable skin irritation, nor did it result in an increase in skin temperature; both of which are promising. They also found that a pulsed application, rather than a continuous beam, was much more effective. As a result, they were able to unveil that much of what is currently accepted in the medical field about NIR is flawed.
Dr. Henderson stressed that while these milli-watt-level NIR lights had no effect on the brain, these high-powered applications presented an interesting new potential for those looking to treat brain injuries. In fact, this new method could be used to help stimulate the area where damage has occurred and help repair the tissue. Contrary to the old belief that brain injuries could not be cured, this new sort of technology is nothing short of a breakthrough.
So far, this treatment is meant to be used for traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which include concussions and other “one-time” impacts. Despite this, the implication may point to other advances down the road, which scientists might use to treat all variety of other brain injuries.