Certain neurological conditions may see improvement through photobiomodulation, a non-invasive method involving the application of low-intensity light to stimulate altered functions in specific body areas. A recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders sheds light on how photobiomodulation targeting the brain-gut axis can effectively mitigate cognitive impairments and consequences stemming from chronic stress. This research presents promising prospects for integrating this technique into future therapeutic approaches for neurological disorders.

Led by Professor Albert Giralt from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Institute of Neurosciences (UBneuro) at the University of Barcelona, the study, based on laboratory animal models, involves collaboration from teams at the UB’s Centre for the Production and Validation of Advanced Therapies (CREATIO), the University of Girona, the University of Montpellier, and the company REGEnLIFE (France).

Photobiomodulation typically involves the application of light from lasers or other low-intensity sources to stimulate organ activity affected by altered physiology. This study innovatively explores combined photobiomodulation targeting different organs, specifically the brain and the gut, in the realm of depression treatment.

Professor Albert Giralt highlights the novelty of this approach, emphasizing its potential in addressing neurological and psychiatric disorders through the manipulation of the gut-brain axis. He notes that photobiomodulation, being non-invasive and devoid of the side effects associated with pharmacological treatments, could offer significant benefits, especially in treating conditions like treatment-resistant depression.

The study utilizes devices developed by REGEnLIFE, adapted from previous research on Alzheimer’s patients, which combine various stimulation sources and a magnetic ring to ensure controlled light emission, avoiding tissue overheating, and are tailored for clinical application.

Challenging the notion that psychiatric disorders solely originate from the brain, the study underscores the importance of considering other organs and tissues in their pathophysiology. The research aims to elucidate molecular mechanisms underlying photobiomodulation’s effects, particularly in reversing cognitive deficits induced by chronic stress.

The findings suggest that photobiomodulation not only restores the SIRT1 pathway, associated with neuronal health and senescence, but also modulates negative pyramiding and normalizes diversity in the intestinal microbiota, thus highlighting its potential therapeutic impact on both the brain and gut.

In clinical practice, combined photobiomodulation could serve as an adjunctive therapy alongside pharmacological interventions, particularly in cases of treatment-resistant depression. Future clinical trials are envisaged to validate its efficacy and explore its impact on neuroinflammatory processes, potentially offering new avenues for treating psychiatric disorders.

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