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This Free Technique Could Enhance Brain Health & Response Time, New Study Finds

Lights, cells, action!

Conducted by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, this study investigated optogenetics, the use of light to stimulate or inhibit neurons (the main type of brain cell). While light therapy has been studied many times before–in fact, optogenetics was first developed more than 20 years ago–this study tested a new technique that aims to cause long-term changes in neuron activity by altering something called neuronal membrane capacitance, which refers to how quickly a brain cell can respond when it receives an input.

The study found that this technique can indeed lead to long-term changes in neuron behavior that don’t require any other interventions. At the moment, researchers plan to use the new technique as a research tool to better understand what’s happening in the brain, but hopefully, in the future, it can be used therapeutically for brain-related conditions like Alzheimer’s or psychiatric diseases.

Light therapy: Is it legit?

As we alluded to before, light therapy is one of those treatments that may sound a little well…iffy. Shining light on your body or brain cells just doesn’t seem like it could possibly be a scientifically backed medical invention. But according to this study–and many that have come before it–light therapy has significant potential. Past research has shown that light therapy can:

Benefit traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Improve seasonal affective disorder (check out our top sun lamp recommendations) Treat acne, psoriasis, and other skin disorders via red light therapy Give your body2 a daily dose of vitamin D
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Actions as simple as getting morning sun exposure may also benefit your sleep and daytime energy levels, as melatonin (the main “sleep hormone”) is inhibited by light and produced when you’re in a dark environment. So while we’re still a ways away from using the light therapy tested in this study to treat brain disorders, it adds to a growing body of evidence that says light therapy is, in fact, legitimate. Given its research-backed potential, mindbodygreen even called it as a wellness trend to watch in the year ahead.

How to support brain health today.

Since we’re a long way off from using light therapy to change the brain in more significant ways, it’s worth asking: What proven alternative methods can we start using today to benefit brain health and response time?

One easy place to start is with supplements called nootropics, which optimize brain health and promote memory, mood balance, and cognitive function. Here are a few highly-rated nootropics to look into.

Another great practice for promoting brain health is meditation. Meditation has been shown to keep your hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and emotional regulation, healthier, and some studies have found it can help decrease brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress. It has even been shown to alter the behavior and conductivity of neurons3, like how light therapy did in this new MIT/Harvard study.

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The takeaway.

Science says that light therapy is a promising treatment for brain health and can cause lasting changes in the way brain cells behave. That said, we’re still a ways off from that reality, so for now we can focus on other ways to support brain health daily.

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