BioHack Your Mood, Boost Your Brain: Light Therapy is the new “Nootropic”
While biohackers everywhere are spending hundreds of dollars if not more each year of expensive supplements, smart drugs and cognitive enhancers for executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation - light medicine can be used to achieve the same effect without any complications or side effects sometimes found in some of the more stimulating nootropics on the market.
Did you know that light therapy has been proven to:
- promote alertness
- improve attention span
- improve memory consolidation
- dramatically decrease depression and anxiety
- generally improve cognition
When red light is applied to the skull, it penetrates into the brain. Applying the light for just a few minutes to the brain, decreases anxiety and depression. This makes sense as several studies show that depression is linked to abnormal blood flow in the frontal cortex of the brain, and red light and infrared phototherapy increases blood flow and circulation.
As the lightwaves stimulate ATP production, also responsible for signaling to the brain to release serotonin and endorphins, our mood elevates and we're provided with a sense of ease and clarity not available to us before. Acting as an all natural anti-depressant without the side effects.
Using light medicine to benefit those suffering from major depression, scientists in 2009 from Harvard University tested the effects of near-infrared light on 10 subjects. Every subject suffered from major long term depression. When the lightwaves were applied directly to the forehead of the patients after 16 minutes, and after just one treatment with near-infrared light, patients experienced highly significant reductions in both depressions and anxiety. The subjects posted better and improved scores after only two weeks of the therapy. By the end of the four-week study, 6 out of 10 patients experienced a remission of their depression, and 7 out of 10 patients experienced a remission of their anxiety. This has shown that near-infrared therapy can tackle and ease depression and anxiety in just one treatment.
In some studies, researchers have found that brain and cognitive performance benefit greatly from transcranial red and near-infrared light therapy. There have been studies showing enhancement in brain function and neural activity in the older generations but recent studies are coming out now showing that light therapy isn't limited to enhancing brain health of the elderly, but also showing an increase in cognitive function among young adults.
A suggested routine for cognitive enhancement and mood elevation (increasing dopamine and serotonin in the brain while generally improving mitochondrial function), would be to:
- Apply infrared light waves in the 810 - 880nm range to the frontal cortex and back of the head where the base of your skull meets your neck.
- Get the right pulse rate. You’ll want a light pulsed at 40hz which has been proven in recent studies at Harvard Medical and Boston University School of Medicine and correlate with gamma oscillations within the brain, activate glial cells which are responsible for clearing unwanted protein deposits, and increasing cognitive processing capability and memory consolidation. The Therapy Wrap is calibrated to the 40hz pulse rate and 850nm for this reason.
- Check the power density. Without the right strength, the waves won’t get through the skull and into the brain. At a power of 37 joules per cm2 (such as our clinical strength Therapy Wrap) a 20 minute treatment would have similar effects to those in the groundbreaking studies happening now, which are examined in our book, Light Medicine. Light Medicine details 30 different treatments and recommended times and wavelengths for various conditions.
You can further support light therapy with a healthy lifestyle designed to increase performance and motivation by stimulating your natural dopamine with a modified diet and a few key habits.
Dopamine increases our motivation. This has been demonstrated in numerous studies. In an experiment performed by neuroscientist John Salamone, rats had to choose between two piles of food. One was twice the side of the other, but it required the rats to climb a small fence. Some rats had high levels of dopamine in their bodies, and some had lower levels of dopamine. The rats with the lowest levels of dopamine always opted for the easy way out: the small food pile. The rats with higher levels of dopamine were able to motivate themselves to go for the harder to attain, but bigger food pile.
Beyond applying lightwaves to the brain you can increase your natural dopamine levels through a variety of methods that include:
1. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. When you sleep your body recharges and replenishes itself. Consequently, your dopamine levels rise.
2. Workout. If you do physical activity for 30-60 minutes maintaining a heart rate of 150 or higher, your dopamine levels will also increase.
3. Reach a goal. This one may sound a little like a goal within a goal, or a russian doll takeoff, but consider it for a moment. As you pursue your goal of attaining a healthier lifestyle, each time you hit a benchmark, the pleasure center in your brain will release dopamine. Or in other words, as your willpower recognizes its own strength, you’ll receive physiological rewards that further increase your ability to keep going.
4. Eat foods that contain tyrosine. These foods include:
- Low-fat dairy (be careful about which dairy you eat — dairy often has high fat concentrations.)
- Meat and poultry (be careful about which meat and poultry you eat — meat and poultry often contains high fat concentrations.)
5. Eat foods that contain antioxidants. These foods include:
- Green beans
- Orange vegetables and fruits
- Brussels sprouts
- Nuts and sunflower seeds