Back in December 2016, I first listened to a RadioLab Podcast called “Bringing Gamma Back”. The story covered MIT researchers who discovered that a pulsed gamma wave light could reverse 50% of brain plaques in a mouse model in just one hour. Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are protein misfolding disorders. And gamma light mimics the brain’s natural rhythm, which can help to reduce inflammation. It was an amazing story that got us looking deeper into light therapies and how they might also help with Parkinson’s.
Australian and French researchers collaborated in a study that started to look at how near infra-red light can help alleviate Parkinson's symptoms. Near infrared light is said to reduce pain, inflammation, heal wounds, and improve immunity. It is used in a variety of treatments and saunas.
In the study, an infra-red light is implanted in the part of the brain that degenerates in PD.
This method is called deep brain stimulation. This is different from the electrical DBS stimulation that is a more common surgical therapy in Parkinson’s. The researchers don’t yet know how or why it works, but early studies have seemed promising. Some have even shown that it can slow the death of neurons.
John has been testing a prototype of a light "cap" from engineers at a local University. He wears the cap two times a day at different light frequencies and intensity levels, recording his observations on how it impacts his daily activities.
Exposure to sunlight, Vitamin D, and Parkinson’s
And what about sunlight? Population research suggests that more than 50% of the population suffers from low levels of Vitamin D. In May 2020, a researcher from the University of Colorado published a review on the relationship between Vitamin D levels and Parkinson’s. Over the past 100 years, we have moved from outside jobs working on farms to more indoor activities out of the daily sun. While there is no clear cut evidence that this is a specific cause of Parkinson’s, the evidence supports the fact that healthy Vitamin D levels lead to increased longevity. You can also see how low Vitamin D levels and the circadian clock are connected to sunlight on my blog post on sleep.
It is interesting to see this subject come back around. Some of my reading interests if you are interested in digging in a bit deeper:
Light in Shaping Life: Biophotons in Biology and Medicine by Roeland Van Wijk
Health and Light by John Ott, the father of photobiology
American Sunshine: Diseases of Darkness and the Quest for Natural Light by Daniel Freund, University of Chicago Press
Getting more sunshine is easy and it’s free! So get outside on a daily basis and get some light!