Red light therapy is taking the health industry by storm. I've seen first hand the benefits of shining red light and near-infrared light on my body from my Red Light Therapy device.
But what about red light on the brain?
The science is solid—the evidence shows that light therapy helps with Alzheimer's and cognitive function and has a range of other benefits.
So what is the best way to get this therapeutic light into the brain? By using the red light therapy headset from Vielight.
In this article, I'm going to explain what Vielight is, how it works and then review Vielight itself. I've been using it off and on for many months now, so I will be sharing my insights below.
Vielight is a company that makes wearable photobiomodulation devices to enhance cognitive function and general wellness.
These devices shine therapeutic light in both the red and near-infrared (NIR) range into the brain either through the skull or via the nasal passage or both. Some of the products made by Vielight use both modalities. (I'll cover this in more detail later).
The team from Vielight put it simply:
The Vielight Neuro units are transcranial-intranasal near-infrared (NIR) headsets, engineered for increased efficacy and easy domestic use for comprehensive brain photobiomodulation. Essentially the process energizes neuronal mitochondria which trigger a cascade of beneficial cellular events.
To achieve this, the user wears a rather sci-fi looking headset or clips a specially designed LED up this nostril.
Yes I know, it all looks and sounds a little nerdy. Nevertheless, there are countless people, in all age brackets, wearing these units every day because of the benefits they are receiving.
You can view a short video that appeared on the discovery channel showcasing the benefits of Vielight on elderly persons' cognitive health. This video is viewable HERE.
The company has done extensive research on designing their products. Users have seen benefits with brain conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, dementia, depression and even severe allergies. As the benefits of photobiomodulation (PBM) and in particular red light therapy become more well known, Vielight is making its way into the fitness and high-performance arenas.
Professional hockey players such as Kevin Clark, and world-famous athlete and biohacker Ben Greenfield are two such individuals who swear by their Vielight therapeutic devices. Ben calling it 'Viagra for the brain' and Kevin stating 'It was incredible to see the results I was getting from my Vielight'.
Kevin noticed an uptick in his heart rate variability when using his Vielight as well as being more mentally alert with deeper sleep and improved sleep scores.
Remarkably, Vielight has even been beneficial for athletes recovering from concussion and TBI injuries.
Does all this sound good to be true?
Perhaps, but we do know how beneficial photobiomodulation is for health and wellness.
I have explored these benefits in detail in my article The Fascinating Healing Properties of Red Light Therapy: Rapid Healing, Reduce Wrinkles And Rejuvenate Health.
So I do believe these claims that Vielight makes about their devices. The science is solid, and anecdotal evidence supports the science.
But before I jump to conclusions, let us take a good look at the claimed benefits and the science behind Vielight. Then I will share my own personal review of my Vielight devices.
First I should make something clear—Vielight has a couple of models for sale. Some shine light on the head (transcranial) while other models shine it through the nose. Some use red light in the 600nm range and other products use invisible near-infrared light.
I will cover all the product options below. For now, I will look at the benefits of Vielight's photobiomodulation (PBM) of red and near-infrared light on the brain.
• A 2017 study looked at the use of 810nm, 10Hz pulsed light on the subjects' heads and intranasally. The subjects had mild to moderately severe cognitive impairment going into the test. After 12 weeks of use, the researchers noted, "significant improvement after 12 weeks of PBM. Increased function, better sleep, fewer angry outbursts, less anxiety and wandering were reported post-PBM. There were no negative side effects (1)."
This is a powerful finding, especially for those concerned about preventing or already suffering from cognitive decline. They now have a relatively low-cost treatment that can be used in the comfort of their home.
• Results from a newer study published in 2019 set out to further prove the effectiveness of near-infrared light applied transcranially and also via the nose on cognitive function. The researchers also found improved cognitive function in all areas of the brain in those suffering from brain impairment diseases (2).
The evidence is clear—if you or a loved one suffer from cognitive decline, or you are concerned about it, then Vielight is a great in-home treatment option.
The Vielight intranasal device has the benefits of blood irradiation therapy. This practice has long been studied in Russia and Germany, where certain wavelengths of light shined onto blood at the appropriate energy levels has been shown to have numerous benefits.
As Vielight devices utilize therapeutic benefits of shining red and NIR light directly into the brain, the benefits of Vielight are potentially huge.
We already know that red and NIR light does everything from help with memory recall and learning to regrowing tooth dentine (10) and increased ATP synthesis. And we know that PBM has systemic benefits, meaning the whole body benefits from exposure.
I have listed some of the benefits of red light on the body below, but for the full list head to THIS page:
Therefore, the benefits of using Vielight devices could potentially be enormous—it's just that science hasn't figured it all out yet.
Vielight simply uses LEDs or lasers to concentrate red light or near-infrared light into the brain. This is done intranasally or transcranially with Vielight's nasal light piece or headpiece, or both can be used at the time.
The following image shows the near-infrared illumination generated by the Vielight Neuro Gamma in a human cadaver, detected using near-infrared sensory equipment.
My article The Fascinating Healing Properties of Red Light Therapy: Rapid Healing, Reduce Wrinkles And Rejuvenate Health takes a comprehensive look at the science behind PBM and how this works with Vielight.
Alternatively, Vielight's website has a great page on the science behind the Vielight technology → https://vielight.com/photobiomodulation/.
I have referenced a few key points below:
Photobiomodulation therapy is defined as the utilization of non-ionizing photonic energy to trigger photochemical changes within cellular structures that are receptive to photons, particularly mitochondria. At the cellular level, visible red and near-infrared light energy are absorbed by mitochondria, which perform the function of producing cellular energy called “ATP”. The key to this entire process is a mitochondrial enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase, a chromophore, which accepts photonic energy of specific wavelengths when functioning below par. (Vielight's website)
Photobiology is the study of the effects of non-ionizing radiation on biological systems. The biological effect varies with the wavelength region of the radiation. The radiation is absorbed by molecules in skin such as DNA, protein or certain drugs. The molecules are changed chemically into products that initiate biochemical responses in the cells. Vielight explains it well.
Biological reaction to light is nothing new, there are numerous examples of light induced photochemical reactions in biological systems. Vitamin D synthesis in our skin is an example of a photochemical reaction. The power density of sunlight is only 105 mW/cm2 yet when ultraviolet B (UVB) rays strike our skin, it converts a universally present form of cholesterol, 7-dehydrocholesterol to vitamin D3. We normally experience this through our eyes which are obviously photosensitive—our vision is based upon light hitting our retinas and creating a chemical reaction that allows us to see. Throughout the course of evolution, photons have played a vital role in photo-chemically energizing certain cells. (from https://vielight.com/photobiomodulation/)
Quote from Vielight's Explanation of Pathways
- NO (Nitric Oxide)
- ROS (Reactive Oxygen Series) → PKD (gene) → IkB (Inhibitor κB) + NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) → NF-κB (nuclear factor κB stimulates gene transcription)
- ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) → cAMP (catabolite activator protein) → Jun/Fos (oncogenic transcription factors) → AP-1 (activator protein transcription factor stimulates gene transcription) (https://kaluznevpc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Photobiomodulation-VieLight-Inc.pdf)
Vielight's Explanation of Mechanism
It is a complex process, but Vielight breaks it down for us.
The current widely accepted proposal is that low-level visible red to near infrared light energy is absorbed by mitochondria and converted into ATP for cellular use. In addition, the process creates mild oxidants (ROS) that leads to gene transcription and then to cellular repair and healing. The process also unclogs the chain that has been clogged by nitric oxide (NO). The nitric oxide is then released back into the system. Nitric oxide is a molecule that our body produces to help its 50 trillion cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the entire body. Additionally, nitric oxide helps to dilate the blood vessels and improve blood circulation. (from https://vielight.com/photobiomodulation/)
Vielight's Explanation of Brain Bioenergetics
Near-infrared light stimulates mitochondrial respiration in neurons by donating photons that are absorbed by cytochrome oxidase, a bioenergetics process called photoneuromodulation in nervous tissue.The absorption of luminous energy by the enzyme results in increased brain cytochrome oxidase enzymatic activity and oxygen consumption. Since the enzymatic reaction catalyzed by cytochrome oxidase is the reduction of oxygen to water, acceleration of cytochrome oxidase catalytic activity directly causes an increase in cellular oxygen consumption. Increased oxygen consumption by nerve cells is coupled to oxidative phosphorylation, ATP production increases as a consequence of the metabolic action of near-infrared light. This type of luminous energy can enter brain mitochondria transcranially, and—independently of the electrons derived from food substrates—it can directly photostimulate cytochrome oxidase activity.
When you head over to the Vielight store you will immediately see a variety of units for sale.
I'll break down each one below:
This uses NIR light pulsed at 40 Hz, which has a stronger effect on memory and cognitive enhancement. This unit is recommended for optimum concentration and memory.
It comes with the headpiece and the nosepiece for both transcranial and intranasal exposure.
The cost is $1,749 before using Vielight discount code ALEX10 which will save you 10%.
The Neuro Gamma with the headpiece, nosepiece and the control box.
Like the Gamma, this Neuro Alpha device also uses NIR light emitted through the headset and nosepiece but uses a 10 Hz pulse rate. This is more effective for overall neuronal health.
It also costs $1749 before using Vielight discount code ALEX10 (this will save you 10%)
This is the premium Vielight product. Combining both the Neuro Alpha (NIR at 10 Hz) and Neuro Gamma (NIR at 40 Hz) for the best brain performance possible.
It comes with a transcranial and intranasal device. And retails for $2,369 before using Vielight discount code ALEX10 to save 10%.
The X-plus uses 810nm light on the head and 633nm red light through the nose for systemic irradiation benefits.
The headset is a different design compared to the three I listed above. In fact, the X-Plus is designed to hit areas of the brain that the Neuro headsets don't target, namely the posterior brain area. Plus it can be used for spot treatments all over the body.
The price for the X-plus is $749 before using Vielight discount code ALEX10 to save an additional 10%.
Finally, we have three intranasal devices. These don't have the headband with transcranial emitters. But on the upside, come in at a much lower price.
There are three options. The 633nm Red is $299, which is for systemic use. The 655nm Prime is also for systemic use and retails for $399. The 810 Infrared costs $499 and is used for brain enhancement.
These units target the nasal cavity, which is rich in blood capillaries. The 655nm Prime unit is for the body and blood irradiation benefits, allowing more oxygen to flow to the muscles and reducing fatigue.
The infrared unit is beneficial for brain function given the deeper penetration of NIR light.
Now it's time for what you've all been waiting for—the story of my experience with using it.
I've had the Vielight Gamma and the Vielight 633 for over a year now. During this time I've been using it a couple of times a week.
And what have I noticed? Not a hell of a lot, to be honest.
I know, that's all a big disappointment and not what you were wanting to hear.
I mean, I do feel a mild 'caffeine buzz' after doing a session. I don't drink coffee on a regular basis, so when I have a small cup of joe, the small pick me up is similar to what I occasionally feel after a Vielight session. But other than that, I can't say there have been massive life-changing improvements.
I've reached out to Vielight about my lack of noticeable results. They say that, in rare circumstances, some users do not see any results. In which they offer a refund policy. They also said it could be due to my heavy dose of red light therapy from my Red Light device.
However, because of the sound technology and science behind PBM, I continue to use my Vielight. The brain benefits are simply too beneficial to ignore.
The reasons why I don't see any results could be due to any of the following:
• Maybe because I'm already doing a lot of red light therapy with my multiple Red Light Panels (which emit 660nm and 850nm light). In fact, I often wear my Vielight when I do my Red Light session because it is just easier to put a light up my nose and wear a nerdy headset for 20 minutes when I'm already standing next to my MitoRed Light for 20 minutes in the morning.
• The Vielight team said I should avoid using the Vielight at the same time as using my red light panel. After hearing this I started using my Vielight later in the day, after my Red Light session. Some days I would skip the Red Light and just use my Vielight. On these occasions, I have noticed a surge in cognitive energy, especially if I'm doing a task like research or writing. Is it a placebo effect? Or am I over-analyzing things? I do not know.
• Perhaps changes are happening, but I just have not been attributing them to using Vielight. They could be deeper level changes. For example, I haven't been sick in a really long time. My HRV score on my Oura ring is always high and I sleep like a rock with a good 1.5–2 hours of deep sleep a night.
• It could be that I'm doing too many experiments at the same time. I'm always playing around with my diet, adding a new supplement or trying other biohacks. For example, I've been experimenting with the nootropic Qualia and their anti-ageing formula Eternus. These are all extra variables that make it hard to know what is working best.
• Possibly, I'm not using it enough. If I averaged it out, I probably only use my Vielight 1.5 times a week. I never travel with it. And I will admit, it's not the most comfortable thing to wear. Plus all the cords hanging from my head do restrict the tasks I can do.
• Alternatively, I've already reached superhuman status, but I doubt it. I'm a slow learner, my memory recall is pathetic and I often forget simple things, so I could just be a non-responder.
• Quite simply, it may be that the Vielight doesn't work. But I don't want to believe that. I know, I know, I hear you thinking to yourself, "Crazy!" But hey, the science is so darn solid. I've taken a deep dive into the literature around photobiomodulation, and I have experienced the benefits first hand from my Red Light use. Plus, so many people swear by the Vielight. Especially those with cognitive decline. Just have a nosey around the Vielight website and watch some of the testimonials.
Anyway, I wanted to be upfront with everyone. As I mentioned, I will continue using my Vielight as I am certain something beneficial is happening.
And maybe I need to do a proper experiment, where I do some brain quantification tests and use the Vielight as prescribed without any other red light therapy treatments.
If anyone has any ideas on how I should structure this, please let me know.
It is uncomfortable. I mean, you're shoving things up your nose and wearing a rather clunky headpiece. Not to mention, you have wires running everywhere. It's really not that fun, especially if you're trying to move around with it.
But hey, I do a lot of uncomfortable things in the name of health, so it's not that big of an issue. Especially because a session only lasts 20 minutes.
Also, it would be cool if the units had an option to alternate between wavelengths. Right now you spend a lot of money on a Vielight that only emits one wavelength unless you buy the Duo, where you can get two wavelengths. I know it would send the price sky-high, but it would be neat if you could choose what wavelength you wanted to use. Maybe I wanted extra red to help fight a bug one day and then more NIR for brain performance the other next.
Actually, this point is probably a poor one now that I think of it. For the best overall results, get a Neuro Duo and then get the 655 prime for the other nostril. I'll stop whining now.
Sure, if you're a biohacker looking for ways to increase brain function, you're worried about (or suffering from) dementia or Alzheimer's or you simply love photobiomodulation.
It's hard for me to recommend it to everyone, simply because I haven't noticed any major effects. This is unlike my experience with using Full body red light panels—where I notice the impact it has on my skin, teeth and hormones.
If I wore my Vielight and then felt like my brain changed up a few gears, then sure, I'd say 'everyone needs this'. But I don't. So I can't.
But others do notice this change. So, therefore, I guess it is best to try it for yourself and see how you feel. Vielight does have a refund policy. Alternatively, hang around in some biohacker circles and you may find someone who will let you use theirs for a while.
I know I keep mentioning my red light devices. Even though panels like MitoRed use red light therapy as does Vielight, the similarities stop there. Vielight is designed so that the light penetrates deep into the brain. Plus, it's programmed for optimal cognitive benefits.
Vielight also uses a pulsed light. The frequency varies depending on the model you go with.
The Neuro Alpha, for example, uses a 10 Hz pulse rate. This helps the brain enter the alpha brain wave state which can bring about a relaxed state.
Devices like MitoRed don't utilize this pulsating function.
Red light therapy panels are designed for whole-body use—hence, why it's a panel and not a headset.
But, I keep thinking to myself, if I had $2000, was 20–30 years old and it was a toss-up between a Red Light Panel and Vielight, which would I get? I'd have to say the Red Light Pane. Or, I'd get a smaller panel and then a Vielight intranasal unit.
I personally think the physical benefits from a Red light panel would be more advantageous for a young adult than the brain-boosting benefits from the Vielight.
Now if I was 50 or older and the same scenario applied, I'd probably go with the Vielight, because I'd be keen to help my brain as it ages, however I possibly could!
If you would like to learn more about the Vielight, I highly recommend spending some time on their website at https://vielight.com/. It's chock-full of great information, science and frequently asked questions.
You can also purchase the Vielight direct from their website. Vielight has given me a discount code to share with my readers. It is ALEX10 and that will knock 10% off the purchase price.
If you have any questions or feedback for me, please leave it in the comments section below.
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is a ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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