Researchers Look At Non-Invasive Laser Light Therapy And How It Can Improve Short-Term Memory In The Brain

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According to a new study, laser light therapy is proving to be quite effective when it comes to improving short term memory.

In fact, scientists established that this non-invasive type of therapy could actually improve short term memory in people by 10%, possibly even up to 25%.

A group of scientists at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom and China’s Beijing Normal University showed how the treatment, which is called transcranial photobiomodulation (tPBM), was applied to a specific area in the brain that’s known as the ‘right prefrontal cortex.’

This particular area is highly recognized as the important part for the working memory. As for the experiment, the research team showed just how the working memory improved in the research participants after they were given several minutes of treatments. The researchers were also able to track the changes in the brain activity of the participants, all through electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring during their treatment and testing.

In previous studies using laser light treatment, it was found that it managed to improve the working memory in mice, while human studies showed how tPBM treatments managed to improve ‘accuracy, reaction time, and high-order functions such as attention.’

However, this is the first study that has been able to confirm the link between tPBM and working memory in humans, they shared.

Visiting PhD student in the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health and co-author of the study, Dongwei Li, said, “People with conditions like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or other attention-related conditions could benefit from this type of treatment, which is safe, simple and non-invasive, with no side-effects.” 

For the study, the research group at Beijing Normal University conducted the experiments with 90 male and female participants between the ages of 18 to 25. The participants were treated with laser light to the right prefrontal cortex at wavelengths of 1064 nm. The other were given shorter wavelength treatments, or the treatments were delivered to the left prefrontal cortex instead. In order to rule out the placebo effect, each study participants was also treated with a sham, otherwise known as the inactive tPBM.

After The tPBM treatment, which was over 12 minutes, the participants were then asked to remember the orientations or colors of a set of items that were displayed on a screen. As for those participants that were treated with laser light to the right prefrontal cortex showed ‘clear improvements’ in memory as compared to those that were given the other treatments.

Although the other participants who were given the other treatment variations were also able to remember, on average they got 1.9 of the test objects. Meanwhile, those that received targeted treatment managed to recall around 2.1 objects on average.

Moreover, the scientists took the data from the experiment, which included the electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring taken during the experiment. And after analyzing it, it showed changes in the brain activity, while also predicting the improvement in memory performance.

However, they don’t exactly know why the treatment managed to positively affect the working memory, nor how long the effects can last. But they do plan to do further research to better understand how it works.

Professor Ole Jensen from the Centre for Human Brain Health explained, “It’s possible that the light is stimulating the mitochondria – the powerplants – in the nerve cells within the prefrontal cortex, and this has a positive effect on the cells’ efficiency.”