Could Near-Infrared Light Give Aging Brains a Boost?

Could Near-Infrared Light Give Aging Brains a Boost?

A team of researchers from the University of Arizona and University of Florida are investigating whether near-infrared light could help enhance cognition and reduce Alzheimer's disease risk in older adults.

With the support of a new $3.8 million grant from the National Institute on Aging – $1.8 million of which will go to the University of Arizona – researchers will expose study participants, who range in age from 65 to 89, to near-infrared light via caps placed on participants' heads and intranasal devices inserted in the nose.

"This is a novel intervention, and we're using something called near-infrared photo biomodulation, which is essentially near-infrared light that is presented with diodes that are placed on the surface of the head or in the nostril," said Gene Alexander, one of the project's principal investigators and a professor in the University of Arizona departments of psychology and psychiatry, the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute and the BIO5 Institute.

"We think near-infrared light can help enhance energy metabolism and mitochondrial function; mitochondria are essentially the engines in the cell that produce energy," said Alexander, who is also director of the Brain Imaging and Fluid Biomarkers Core for the Arizona Alzheimer's Disease Center. "The idea is that we might be able to enhance cognitive and brain function by exposing people to this light for periods of time."

Near-infrared light has shown promise as a cognitive intervention in animal studies and in smaller human studies, which led Alexander and his collaborators at the University of Florida to further explore its potential.

"One the initiatives in the University of Arizona's strategic plan is to close the gap that exists between the cognitive health span and the human life span," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "As people live longer, we want to make sure they also are living healthier and more meaningful lives. This research collaboration is an important piece of our ongoing work to better understand how to combat age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease, which affects millions of people all over the world."

Read the full article from UA News here

Published Date: 
10/15/2019 - 11:09