Dementia is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people around the globe. Its effects are characterized by a decrease in cognitive functions, including memory, language, judgment, and reasoning. Additionally, Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) are frequently seen and can involve agitation, aggression, apathy, psychosis, continual questioning, wandering, and other inappropriate behaviors.While there is no cure for dementia, researchers are exploring non-pharmacological interventions that may help alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life for dementia patients. An intervention of this sort is light therapy, also known as phototherapy.
In a recently published paper in the journal Brain and Behavior, researchers examined twelve past randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to assess the effect of light therapy on dementia symptoms. The meta-analysis featured a sum of 766 individuals, with 426 who were administered light therapy, while the remainder acted as controls for comparison. The results of the study were encouraging, indicating that light therapy may bolster cerebral function in those with dementia.
The study established a correlation between light therapy and enhancement of cognitive function, as evaluated by the Mini-Mental State Examination. In terms of depression, agitation and other dementia-related behavioural symptoms, however, there was no significant disparity between those who received light therapy and those who didn't. It was suggested that individuals receiving light therapy had less serious agitation than the control group, though this difference was not statistically meaningful.
The duration of light therapy sessions ranged from 6 to 120 minutes, with frequencies varying from twice daily to five times weekly. In addition, around half of the studies had patients exposed to light at a particular point in the day - morning, afternoon or the dusk-dawn period. The remaining studies either had no specified timing for the light or used a 24-hour lighting cycle.
The meta-analysis's amount of studies and participants was scant, a consequence of researchers selecting only the highest-quality studies available at the time. Moreover, the discrepancies in the light therapy interventions used in the 12 studies could have accounted for the variability of the findings.
In spite of these limitations, the scientists of the study think that phototherapy may be one of the most probable non-pharmacological treatments for bettering essential signs of dementia. Those who experienced light therapy reported either zero or minor negative effects such as eye discomfort and slight redness on the forehead. Nevertheless, not all experiments revealed negative effects.
While the recent meta-analysis found benefits of light therapy for cognition in people with dementia,there is stronger evidence that it improves other areas, such as sleep and mood. According to a 2020 study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Reports, light therapy was able to ameliorate sleep and reduce agitation and depression in people with dementia.
To gain the greatest benefit from light therapy, it is recommended that light be distributed in such a way that the person is exposed to it no matter where they are looking. When it comes to Alzheimer's patients, one way to do this is to light up the entire area in which they spend their time, such as sitting outdoors in natural sunlight, introducing more illumination into a room, or positioning lamps near them.
In sum, further research needs to be conducted to ascertain which kind of light therapy intervention brings about the most effective results; however, the recent study affords a glimmer of hope that light therapy may be able to alleviate some symptoms of dementia. It is a safe, non-invasive intervention that can potentially enhance the quality of life for dementia sufferers.