Is Infrared Light The Answer To Parkinson’s Disease?
"[My Neurologist] told me it was voodoo medicine and probably wouldn't work, but after the trial I went back for my quarterly check-up, and he did all the standard tests and said to me, 'You're actually testing better than when you first started with me 10 years ago.'"
- Male patient , 67 years, involved in the ongoing Parkinson’s clinical trial
In her article, Is infrared light the answer to Parkinson’s?, Suvi Mahonen investigates the innovative therapy called photobiomodulation (also referred to as infrared light therapy), with particular interest in its potential benefits for neurological conditions like Parkinson's Disease. She spoke to a male trial participant and the lead researcher, Dr Ann Liebert to learn more about the study and its potential for the broader population suffering with Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological condition said to affect over six million people worldwide. It affects the production of the dopamine neurotransmitter in the brain, resulting in various symptoms such as limb tremor, slowed movement, rigid muscles, speech changes, writing changes, loss of automatic movements, depression, confusion, inability to sleep, loss of memory, and impaired posture and balance (Source: Parkinsons Australia). There is currently no cure. Parkinson’s is commonly treated with medication to slow the depletion of dopamine levels in the brain, but this treatment often leaves the patient with terrible side effects.
Pioneering Australian researcher, Dr Ann Liebert and her team are currently trialling the effects of infrared and visible red light therapy (brain photobiomodulation) as a new treatment alternative on diseases like Parkinson’s. With this therapy, specific wavelengths of infrared and visible red light are applied for 20 minutes per day with little to no known side effects.
The ongoing clinical trial conducted by Dr Ann Liebert, coordinator of photomolecular research at the Australasian Research Institute in Sydney, and several other researchers, had the common objective of examining more than just the neurological changes in Parkinson’s.
“We know that infrared light can reduce Parkinson's symptoms and offer protection to brain cells [but] we wanted to test if it could modulate the gut's microbiome as well." said Dr Liebert.
Results from the ongoing trial of two dozen participants are proving to have been very promising thus far. Although the trial will not be concluded for quite some time, Liebert believes that infrared light therapy “has the potential to apply to huge fields of medicine”.
Case study: A 67 year old male suffering with Parkinson’s lived with the devastating situation of his symptoms increasingly becoming worse. While the disease is often considered a movement disorder, the man’s non-movement symptoms, such as poor sleep, fatigue and depression severely impacted his daily life. The disease left him chronically exhausted, to the point where he could only do one activity per day. Much of the time, faced with the prospect of severe fatigue, he spent his time “staring out the window, feeling lonely and bored” and ultimately, defeated. An advertisement in the newspaper seeking participants in a clinical trial would change his life; giving him hope for a brighter future.
Speaking to Mahonen, the man explained he found himself included in the ongoing Parkinson's trial and thus far has been astonished by his experience with the treatment. He has gained back certain aspects of his life that he didn't think possible and is now helping his son renovate his home - a task he says he would never have had the energy for before he commenced light therapy treatments. He believes the trial has also given him the ability to sleep through the night again as he had become used to waking every hour.