A recent systematic review and meta-analysis have found that phototherapy may significantly improve cognitive function in older adult patients with dementia. Dementia is a growing public health concern characterised by progressive cognitive impairment, motor deficits, and behavioural problems. With an increasingly ageing global population, the search for effective, low-cost treatments is paramount. The findings were published in Brain and Behavior.
Pharmacological treatments for dementia are often limited by medical contraindications, adverse side effects, and insufficient efficacy. As a result, non-pharmacological therapies have gained attention as a crucial component of comprehensive dementia care. One such therapy is phototherapy, which utilises full-spectrum bright light or wavelength-specific lights. Phototherapy offers the advantages of being non-invasive, inexpensive, and safe.
To assess the impact of phototherapy on cognitive function in dementia patients, researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 12 randomised controlled trials involving 766 patients with dementia. The primary outcome was cognitive function as measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score. Secondary outcomes included the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSDs) and sleep.
The meta-analysis found that phototherapy interventions significantly improved MMSE scores in patients with dementia. However, there were no significant differences in the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia score, Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory score, Neuropsychiatric Inventory score, sleep efficiency, total sleep time, and Sleep Disorders Inventory score between the intervention and control groups.
These findings suggest that phototherapy is a promising non-pharmacological intervention for improving core symptoms of dementia, particularly cognitive function. However, the effects of phototherapy on BPSDs and sleep remain unclear and warrant further investigation.
The study emphasises the importance of considering non-pharmacological therapies in dementia care, as well as the need for further research into the effectiveness of such therapies in addressing various aspects of dementia. Phototherapy may offer a low-cost, non-invasive, and safe alternative to traditional drug treatments for dementia patients, potentially improving their cognitive function and overall quality of life.