High-powered multi-Watt transcranial near-infrared light therapy (NILT) is effective in bringing remission to patients with comorbid depression and traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to research conducted by Theodore Henderson, MD, PhD of the Neuro-Laser Foundation and Larry D. Morries DC, of Neuro-Luminance Inc., both located in Centennial, CO.
NILT, a non-invasive treatment delivered transcranially, uses near-infrared (NIR) light to improve oxidative stress, metabolism, inflammation, and neurotrophin levels in conditions such as pain, inflammation, headache, stroke, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Previous studies have have demonstrated light therapy efficacy in patients with TBI, this proof-of-concept study investigated the intervention as a potential depression treatment.
The researchers studied 39 sequential patients who were being treated for TBI between March 2013 and May 2017. Depression was determined through use of self-assessment data and/or administration of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HADS). Additionally, patients completed the Quick Inventory of Depression Symptomatology-Self Report (QIDS) before and after treatment.
The intervention consisted of multi-Watt NILT using near-infrared lasers applied to forehead and temporal regions bilaterally for 9 to 12 minutes each. Pre- and post-treatment scores were analyzed using paired t-tests.
All participants met QIDS criteria for mild to severe depression and 69% had prior antidepressant trials. Results showed that 36 of the 39 participants experienced “a robust response” (decrease of QIDS total score by ≥50%) after 16.82 ± 6.26 treatments.
Overall, the QIDS score decreased from 14.10 ± 3.39 to 3.41 ± 3.30 SD (P=6.29 × 10−19). In 32 of 39 patients, the benefits were sustained, with posttreatment QIDS scores indicating a remission from depression (decrease of QIDS total score ≤5). Patients receiving ≤12 treatments, showed a decrease in QIDS score from 14.83 ± 2.55 to 4.17 ± 3.93, while those receiving ≥13 treatments showed a change in QIDS score from 13.67 ± 3.64 to 3.11 ± 3.14.
For those who completed the entire treatment course (n=15) within ≤8 weeks (5.33 ± 1.72 weeks) there was a change in QIDS score of 13.86 ± 3.14 to 4.5 ± 3.94. Remission was sustained for up to 55 months by patients who received a single course of treatment.
The researchers stated that their findings raise, “an intriguing possibility – that multi-Watt NILT may be a safe, effective, and rapid treatment for depression comorbid with TBI and possibly primary major depression disorder.” They called for a double-blind, placebo controlled trial to verify the data.
Henderson TA, Morries LD. Multi-Watt Near-Infrared Phototherapy for the Treatment of Comorbid Depression: An Open-Label Single-Arm Study. Front Psychiatry. 8:187. September 29, 2017.