In a study from the University of Birmingham and elsewhere, scientists found laser light therapy has been shown to be effective in improving short-term memory.
They demonstrated that the therapy, which is non-invasive, could improve short-term, or working memory in people by up to 25%.
The treatment, called transcranial photobiomodulation (tPBM), is applied to an area of the brain known as the right prefrontal cortex. This area is widely recognized as important for working memory.
In the study, the team showed how working memory improved among research participants after several minutes of treatment.
They were also able to track the changes in brain activity using electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring during treatment and testing.
Previous studies have shown that laser light treatment will improve working memory in mice, and human studies have shown tPBM treatment can improve accuracy, speed up reaction time and improve high-order functions such as attention and emotion.
This is the first study, however, to confirm a link between tPBM and working memory in humans.
The team carried out experiments with 90 men and women aged between 18 and 25.
Participants were treated with laser light to the right prefrontal cortex at wavelengths of 1,064 nm, while others were treated at a shorter wavelength, or treatment was delivered to the left prefrontal cortex.
Each participant was also treated with a sham, or inactive, tPBM to rule out the placebo effect.
After tPBM treatment over 12 minutes, the participants were asked to remember the orientations or color of a set of items displayed on a screen.
The participants treated with laser light to the right prefrontal cortex at 1,064 nm showed clear improvements in memory over those who had received the other treatments.
While participants receiving other treatment variations were about to remember between three and four of the test objects, those with the targeted treatment were able to recall between four and five objects.
The researchers do not yet know precisely why the treatment results in positive effects on working memory, nor how long the effects will last. Further research is planned to investigate these aspects.
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The study was conducted by Dongwei Li et al and published in Science Advances.
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