Can Photobiomodulation Treat Long Covid?

There are numerous approaches to improving brain health and functioning, among them are several techniques that are both non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical, these include light therapy also called photobiomodulation (PBM), peripheral biofeedback (BFB) and brainwave biofeedback or neurofeedback (NFB). These two have been the focus of Quietmind Foundation’s (QMF) clinical research and product development efforts over the past 22 years and serve as the product line now being commercialized by Neuronic. 

I want to outline here the history and future for how these approaches can be combined to substantively advance the treatment of neurodegenerative, neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental challenges, e.g., Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autistic spectrum disorder. 

As I’ve explained in other articles, the purpose of PBM is to increase cellular energy metabolism, modify tissue-level pathology and protect the cells against further damage. One mechanism of action is the stimulation of cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondria to increase output of adenosine triphosphate or ATP. See Fig.1

Near Infrared Light Direct Stimulation on Mitochondria
Schematic diagram showing the direct stimulation mechanism of photobiomodulation. When photobiomodulation hits the cells directly, it is absorbed by a photoreceptor, most notably cytochrome oxidase c or interfacial nanowater within the mitochondria. This results in the production of more ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and the activation of transcription factors in the nucleus and expression of protective and stimulatory genes within the cells. The net result is a healthier cell. (Moro C, Valverde A, Dole M, Hoh Kam J, Hamilton C, Liebert A, Bicknell B, Benabid A-L, Magistretti P and Mitrofanis J (2022) The effect of photobiomodulation on the brain during wakefulness and sleep. Front. Neurosci. 16:942536.doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.942536)

Neurofeedback or brainwave biofeedback has been shown to help renormalize brain electrical connectivity, thereby increasing the body’s capacity to maintain a more efficient and thereby, healthier level of functioning. QMF and Neuronic’s approach to brain health and wellness seeks to integrate these two approaches with a comprehensive understanding of our functional health status.

Both PBM, NFB and BFB have been deployed clinically for between 60 to 100+years respectively, so we have a good, scientific, and applied clinical understanding as to the mechanisms underlying each approach. QMF’s studies of both techniques arose from our search to develop treatment models for dementia and Parkinson’s disease first using NFB (1), then LED-based, pulsed 1070nm near infrared light stimulation. (2) We have shown in our research that these two modalities can modify both cognitive and behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Other studies have demonstrated PBM’s effectiveness with numerous other conditions. This figure shows the range of clinical applications 

Photobiomodulation Therapeutic Targets

Concern over the impact of the Coronavirus on neurological functioning is becoming a major worldwide focus for public health administrators and the healthcare delivery system. It is now estimated that 10% of all those who have been infected with CV19 (16MM) will go on to show longer-term neurological symptoms, including brain fog, memory loss, neuropsychiatric symptoms of depression and anxiety. This figure from (3) gives an overview of the symptoms, treatments, etc. for those with long COVID. Integrated PBM and NFB therapy now represents a scalable, safe and reliable, self-administered, culture-free, and easily deployed treatment option.

 

Long Covid Overview with Risk Factors, Treatment, Pathology and Symptoms
Fig. An overview of the symptoms, putative pathophysiology, associated risk factors, and potential treatments involved in long COVID. Note: Dashed lines represent areas where evidence is relatively lacking compared to non-dashed lines.

With the current evidence on how the impact of COVID can be mitigated by 1070nm PBM, our current efforts are to obtain support for trials directed at the underlying pathophysiological response as well as clinical trials with long covid subjects. We hope to show that repeated exposure to the 1070nm PBM will decrease the duration and intensity of symptoms and their recurrence as well as diminish the severity of post infection neurological injury. 

Combining PBM with neurofeedback training is, based on our research and experience, likely to support more rapid and robust recovery due to the synergistic effects of repairing tissue-level damage, conferring ongoing neuroprotection and renormalizing neural network connectivity. Neuronic’s goal is to soon provide a safe, low-cost, effective, home-based treatment unit that will integrate HRV and EEG neurofeedback. We will then seek FDA approval for this technology as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders, e.g., Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s disease. 

 

Article by Dr. Marvin H. Berman, Ph.D., C.B.T.

Dr. Berman is a Neuro-psychophysiologist with over 30 years experience treating children, adolescents and adults with neurotrauma, memory, learning, emotional and behavior problems using the latest tools and techniques available.  He is currently co-principal investigator evaluating the clinical efficacy of transcranial near infrared light stimulation's ability to alter the progression of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury and ADHD.

To read more of Dr. Berman's work on photobiomodulation for Non-Invasive Treatment click here.

Disclaimer: Neuronic does not provide any medical device nor is it providing a medical service.

 

References

Yong SJ. Long COVID or post-COVID-19 syndrome: putative pathophysiology, risk factors, and treatments. Infect Dis (Lond). 2021 Oct;53(10):737-754. doi: 10.1080/23744235.2021.1924397. Epub 2021 May 22. PMID: 34024217; PMCID: PMC8146298. [Link]
Aiyegbusi OL, Hughes SE, Turner G, Rivera SC, McMullan C, Chandan JS, Haroon S, Price G, Davies EH, Nirantharakumar K, Sapey E, Calvert MJ; TLC Study Group. Symptoms, complications and management of long COVID: a review. J R Soc Med. 2021 Sep;114(9):428-442. doi: 10.1177/01410768211032850. Epub 2021 Jul 15. PMID: 34265229; PMCID: PMC8450986. [Link]
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