Near-infrared light shows potential to both image and treat traumatized brains

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Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have demonstrated that near-infrared (NIR) light can be used not only to image the brain but also, potentially, to treat it for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Documenting their work in two papers published in Scientific Reports, Hanli Liu, PhD, and team describe how they used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to investigate selective attention-related hemodynamic activity in the prefrontal cortex among 15 combat veterans with PTSD.

Meanwhile, they showed that shining NIR light on a subject’s forearm increases production of a protein that stimulates blood flow.

“This is the first time that effects of light stimulation have been quantified on living human tissue,” Liu told the school’s news office. “The next challenge is to apply what was learned in a simpler system to the brain, where the light must pass through the scalp and the skull, as well as the brain.”

Liu and colleagues have been using NIR light to detect, monitor and understand PTSD and other brain disorders for several years. Their present research may mark the first time anyone has used it to deliver this type of therapy.  

Click here to read the rest from UT-Arlington, here for the first of the two papers in Scientific Reports and here for the follow-up paper.