PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Improving brain function with light therapy. It’s a breakthrough treatment being tested in Montgomery County, with some encouraging, early results. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has the exclusive details.
40-year-old Stacey Vila has trouble walking and a variety of other problems related to a brain injury.
“All of a sudden I’m having trouble getting something to eat or getting dressed, so it’s very disruptive. You can’t function,” said Stacey.
She was an active single mom, school teacher, community activist. Until she suffered a severe head injury in an attack three years ago.
“It is very emotional. There are times when you feel numb. There are times where you feel anger,” said Stacey.
When traditional medications and therapy didn’t help, she tried something different.
“All of the sudden I’m breathing better,” said Stacey. She has been getting infrared light stimulation for six months. A helmet-like contraption placed around her head emits low level infrared light. Research has shown the light energy can penetrate the skull and stimulate the brain.
“It improves the flow of blood and it think is also increases the brain cells ability to repair itself,” said Marvin Berman with Quiet-Mind Associates in Plymouth Meeting. He has been using the light treatment, in conjunction with relaxation therapy.
He says imaging shows increased blood flow and brain activity, following light therapy. Now, the light therapy is being tested on people with early Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s a game changing approach, and I’m very excited to be part of it,” said Berman.
73-year-old Peggy Cline has received about 40 treatments.
“It’s been interesting,” said Peggy.
Her husband Ray says Peggy is less forgetful and argumentative since she’s been getting the light therapy.
“It’s making a difference. What we’re seeing is subtle, subtle changes,” said Ray.
For Stacey, she says the improvements have been dramatic. Her walking is quicker and more sure footed after treatment. And she says the circulation and feeling in her hands has improved. She notices it most with her dog.
“I could feel that he was soft. I never been able to feel that before. It was an amazing experience. The idea of having hope I think and knowing that you are healing with this type of treatment has made a big difference,” said Stacey.
The research on light therapy is preliminary. And scientists are still trying to understand exactly how it works, the best dosage, and if the benefits will last.
Quiet-Mind Associates is looking for more early stage Alzheimer’s patients to test the therapy.
Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3