Photobiomodulation for Long Covid-19

Current evidence suggests how the impact of COVID can be mitigated by 1070nm photobiomodulation. 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 intend to study how repeated exposure to the 1070nm PBM may decrease the duration and intensity of long-COVID cognitive and physical symptoms as well as diminish the severity of post infection neurological injury.

Long Covid-19

Researchers at Imperial College London are concluding that the lasting cognitive impact of a severe COVID-19 infection is equivalent to 20 years of aging; specifically, areas like memory, attention, or problem solving are affected. 

This startling news comes from a rigorous study published in eClinical Medicine by a team of Cambridge and Imperial College London scientists. 

According to the research, the mental impairment of Long-COVID is the equivalent of losing 10 IQ points (Hampshire et al., 2022). 

Although just a relatively small study, Professor Adam Hampshire and his team from the Department of Brain Sciences successfully managed to snapshot the global problem that seems to be emerging from the disaster of COVID-19. 

Worldwide, millions of people have been very sick with the infamous virus. Fundamentally, many people out there will experience problems with cognition later down the line, even if they are feeling 'alright' for now. 

It is estimated that 30-40% of those who ever caught COVID-19 and went on to experience Long-COVID will struggle with mental health, including fatigue, 'brain fog', problems recalling words, sleep disturbances, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Professor Adam Hampire's study consisted of 46 people who received in-hospital care for COVID-19. Six months after their illness, the patients took cognitive tests using the platform Cognitron. 

All 46 patients involved in Hampshire's study had detectable deficits in memory, attention and reasoning. Notably, survivors scored particularly poorly on tasks such as verbal analogical reasoning, which is a finding that supports a common problem within the COVID-19 community as many state they are struggling with 'finding words'. 

Electrochemically the frontoparietal network of the brain of those who have suffered from COVID-19 is said to be in a state of glucose-related hypometabolism as concluded by Hosp et al. 2021. 

When cross-referenced, Hosp's and Hampshire's studies stand side by side, as the same part of the brain found to be 'struggling' in Hosp's data is responsible for the dreariness and lack of function reported by Professor Hampshire. 

Emerging evidence suggests that the most critical pathological mechanism contributing to the damage could be the body's inflammatory response and immune system. 

Just March of this year, 785 participants of UK Biobank (ages 51-81 years) were investigated to decipher whether a COVID-19 infection was associated with changes in brain structure (Douaud et al., 2022). 

The findings, published in Nature, identified that those infected with COVID-19 had: 1) A more significant reduction in grey matter thickness and tissue contrast in the orbitofrontal cortex and parahippocampal gyrus. 

2) Greater changes in markers of tissue damage in regions that are functionally connected to the primary olfactory cortex. 

3) A more significant reduction in global brain size. 

Additionally, Biobank's COVID-19 infected participants showed, on average, a more significant cognitive decline. 

In a highly relevant animal model study, Rutkai and his team dissected the brains of non-human primates condemned by COVID-19 and showed that, indeed, neurological manifestations are a significant complication of coronavirus disease (Rutkai et al., 2022). 

The party showed that neuroinflammation, microhemorrhages, brain hypoxia, and neuropathology are consistent in human and non-human primate autopsied brain tissue. Furthermore, evidence of neuron degeneration and apoptosis was reported. 

Long Covid-19 Cognitive Decline Is Due To Energy Failure Not Viral Load In Neural Tissue

More and more studies suggest that there is a limited viral infection within the brain vasculature, and extensive viral load is not seemingly detected within the parenchymal cells (Rutkai et al., 2022). 

Thus, this is not the main reason behind those experiencing cognitive decline. Instead, the fingers are pointing toward the fact that a COVID-19 infection is causing neuronal injury and death due to an energy failure. 

When we take things back to the basic level, we can all understand that the brain is a highly metabolic organ and requires the aerobic metabolism of glucose for adenosine triphosphate (ATP). 

Although our brains only represent 2% of the body weight, remarkably, the brain accounts for about 20% of the oxygen and calories consumed by the body. Furthermore, our neurons are jam-packed full of mitochondria to keep up with this high metabolism level. 

And data suggests that a COVID-19 infection leads to a prolonged or chronic intermittent reduction of blood flow to the brain, resulting in incomplete combustion within the neurons and, therefore, injury. 


How Does Photobiomodulation Help?

So, the question is, how do we get this energy back to the brain? How do we tip the electrochemical scale and begin to repair the damage? 

The answer is by using photobiomodulation. 

We will dive into the logic behind this astounding level of photobiomodulation and how photobiomodulation can have outstanding effects on cognitive function by manipulating frequencies of light combined with neurofeedback. 

So, what is photobiomodulation? 

Photobiomodulation is otherwise known as light therapy. 

Light therapy at the level of neural tissues is known as transcranial photobiomodulation and is a highly emerging topic in neuroscience. Read more on this page.

To understand photobiomodulation is to accept that the brain and neurons are inherently electrochemical systems, and there is a highly interdependent relationship between the two variables. 

This is a meaningful relationship to remember when considering PBM as a modality. 

Using specific wavelengths of light, photobiomodulation has been shown to change the brain chemistry of the neural tissue. 

The changes that photobiomodulation has on the brain are supported by decades of data which suggest that 1070 nm light bring about outstanding biological and cellular effects. 

These photons can penetrate through the scalp, and skull to enter the brain's layers and surrounding tissues. Thus, may help in alleviating the symptoms of cognitive decline experienced in a COVID-19 infection


The main compromising effects on the brain seen in COVID-19 seem to be due to energy failure, relating to the neuron's lack of ability to combust glucose at the cellular level. Partly due to micro-capillary damage and hindered blood supply. 

Hence, by feeding the mitochondria within these neurones near-infrared light, we are overcoming this energy failure and thus generating more ATP for the neuron to use. Consequently, the neuron can use this energy surplus to repair, rejuvenate and revive. Neurogenesis is induced, and cognitive decline is regressed. 

Bottom-line effects include increased firing and wiring, less 'brain fog' and better overall quality of thought. 

Overall, photobiomodulation seems to have enormous potential for treating those suffering from Long-COVID. The method is better than pharmaceutical and chemical approaches to treatment, which have had questionable efficacy. By giving patients more control over their mental state, photobiomodulation could truly revolutionize the way people with this condition live their daily lives.

Related Research 

  • Rationale for 1068 nm Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT) as a Novel, Non-Invasive Treatment for COVID-19 and Other Coronaviruses: Roles of NO and Hsp70, Lydia C. Kitchen,Marvin Berman, James Halper and Paul Chazot. 2022. [Link]
  • Probable positive effects of the photobiomodulation as an adjunctive treatment in COVID-19: A systematic review Marzieh Nejatifard, Sohrab Asefi, Raika Jamali, Michael R.Hamblin, Reza Fekrazade. 2020 [Link]
  • Influence of photobiomodulation therapy on the treatment of pulmonary inflammatory conditions and its impact on COVID-19 Daniela Bezerra Macedo 1, Carla Roberta Tim 1, Hueliton Wilian Kido 2 3, Juliana Bezerra Macedo 1, Cintia Cristina Santi Martignago 2, Ana Claudia Muniz Renno 2, Glauber Bezerra Macedo 3, Lívia Assis 4 2022 [Link]
  • Photobiomodulation therapy for treatment olfactory and taste dysfunction COVID‐19‐related: A case report Viviane Brocca de Souza; Ferreira, Laís Tatiane; Marcela Sene‐Fiorese; Garcia, Vanessa; Tiago Zuccolotto Rodrigues 2022 [Link]

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Hampshire, A., Chatfield, D., MPhil, A., Jolly, A., Trender, W., Hellyer, P., Giovane, M., Newcombe, V., Outtrim, J., Warne, B., Bhatti, J., Pointon, L., Elmer, A., Sithole, N., Bradley, J., Kingston, N., Sawcer, S., Bullmore, E., Rowe, J. and Menon, D., 2022. Multivariate profile and acute-phase correlates of cognitive deficits in a COVID-19 hospitalised cohort. eClinicalMedicine, 47, p.101417. 

Hosp, J., Dressing, A., Blazhenets, G., Bormann, T., Rau, A., Schwabenland, M., Thurow, J., Wagner, D., Waller, C., Niesen, W., Frings, L., Urbach, H., Prinz, M., Weiller, C., Schroeter, N. and Meyer, P., 2021. Cognitive impairment and altered cerebral glucose metabolism in the subacute stage of COVID-19. Brain, 144(4), pp.1263-1276. 

Douaud, G., Lee, S., Alfaro-Almagro, F., Arthofer, C., Wang, C., McCarthy, P., Lange, F., Andersson, J., Griffanti, L., Duff, E., Jbabdi, S., Taschler, B., Keating, P., Winkler, A., Collins, R., Matthews, P., Allen, N., Miller, K., Nichols, T. and Smith, S., 2022. SARS-CoV-2 is associated with changes in brain structure in UK Biobank. Nature, 604(7907), pp.697-707. 

Rutkai, I., Mayer, M., Hellmers, L., Ning, B., Huang, Z., Monjure, C., Coyne, C., Silvestri, R., Golden, N., Hensley, K., Chandler, K., Lehmicke, G., Bix, G., 

Maness, N., Russell-Lodrigue, K., Hu, T., Roy, C., Blair, R., Bohm, R., Doyle Meyers, L., Rappaport, J. and Fischer, T., 2022. Neuropathology and virus in brain of SARS-CoV-2 infected non-human primates. Nature Communications, 13(1). 

Bathini, M., Raghushaker, C. and Mahato, K., 2020. The Molecular Mechanisms of Action of Photobiomodulation Against Neurodegenerative Diseases: A Systematic Review. Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, 42(4), pp.955-971. 

Chan, A., Lee, T., Hamblin, M. and Cheung, M., 2021. Photoneuromodulation makes a difficult cognitive task less arduous. Scientific Reports, 11(1). 

Montazeri, K., Farhadi, M., Fekrazad, R., Akbarnejad, Z., Chaibakhsh, S. and Mahmoudian, S., 2021. Transcranial photobiomodulation in the management of brain disorders. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 221, p.112207. 

Salehpour, F., Mahmoudi, J., Kamari, F., Sadigh-Eteghad, S., Rasta, S. and Hamblin, M., 2018. Brain Photobiomodulation Therapy: a Narrative Review. Molecular Neurobiology, 55(8), pp.6601-6636. 

Urquhart, E., Wanniarachchi, H., Wang, X., Gonzalez-Lima, F., Alexandrakis, G. and Liu, H., 2020. Transcranial photobiomodulation-induced changes in human brain functional connectivity and network metrics mapped by whole-head functional near-infrared spectroscopy in vivo. Biomedical Optics Express, 11(10), p.5783.