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The Neurology and Biology of Red Light Therapy

Updated: May 20

February 23rd, 2024


Red light therapy (RLT), also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation (PBM), is a treatment method that uses low wavelength red light to penetrate the skin. Though it may sound simple, the process by which red light therapy works is deeply rooted in cellular biology and the principles of photobiomodulation.

  • Oldest form of treatment known to man (heliotherapy). Greeks and Egyptians

  • The guy who scientifically proved this won the Nobel prize for it


1. Cellular Absorption of Red Light

The key to understanding red light therapy lies in its absorption by specific cellular components. Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, have a particular affinity for red and near-infrared (NIR) light. This is primarily due to the presence of a photoreceptor called cytochrome c oxidase (CCO).

Think of cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) as a little power plant manager inside your cells, specifically within the parts called mitochondria, which are like the cell's power stations. CCO's job is super crucial for keeping the cell's energy factory running smoothly.

Here's what happens: Your cells need energy to do literally everything, from moving to repairing themselves, and they get this energy from something called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Think of ATP as the cell's currency, used to "buy" whatever the cell needs to function.

Now, to make this ATP currency, the mitochondria need to go through a process somewhat like a complex assembly line, where electrons are passed along like batons in a relay race. This is where CCO steps in as the last and one of the most important runners in the race. It grabs the electrons, uses them to help combine oxygen with hydrogen, producing water (yes, just plain old water!) and importantly, helping to pump protons across a membrane, creating a sort of mini battery. This battery then powers up another machine (ATP synthase) that finally produces ATP.

So, when red light therapy comes into play, it's like giving CCO a pep talk or a cup of coffee. The red light boosts its activity, making it work more efficiently. This means the whole ATP-making process gets a kickstart, leading to more energy for the cell. With this energy boost, cells can do their jobs better, whether that's healing damaged tissue, fighting off inflammation, or keeping your skin looking young and healthy.

  • So, in essence, it uses electrons and photons to turn oxygen into water in your body.

  • This can repair neurons, muscular tissue, skin, and all types of cells into your body.

  • Red light can penetrate about 1-2mm

  • Near infrared can penetrate up to 3 inches

2. Enhanced Mitochondrial Function

When red light photons are absorbed by CCO, it leads to an increase in mitochondrial activity, leading to more efficient production of ATP.

This boost in ATP production enhances cellular energy levels, thereby improving the cells' functionality and promoting repair and regeneration processes. It’s literally filling up all the gas tanks of all the cells so they can repair themselves and regenerate healthy tissue.

3. Stimulation of Cellular Repair and Regeneration

The enhanced cellular energy allows cells to perform their tasks more effectively, including repair and regeneration. This can lead to faster healing of damaged tissues, reduction in inflammation, and stimulation of collagen production, which is essential for skin health and elasticity. It’s even hitting cells (which include neurons) three inches below the surface of the skin

4. Reduction of Oxidative Stress

It also increase the activity of antioxidants within cells, which play a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a condition characterized by an imbalance between free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage cells) and antioxidants. This drop in oxidative stress creates this perfect environment where all the cells can thrive like they are meant to do.

Reactive oxygen species are a natural byproduct of the normal metabolism of oxygen and have important roles in cell signaling and homeostasis. BUT, too much ROS accumulation can seriously damage cells, proteins, and DNA, leading to a cascade of molecular dysfunction.

  • Damaging cell structures and destroying them

  • Causing inflammation - which is the root of most disease

  • Literally causing cellular genetic mutation

  • Causes proteins to fold improperly - which leads to disease and neurological disorders

  • Endothelial disfunction - which leads to hear disease and heart issues.

This is the ROOT COMMON DENOMINATOR in neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's), diabetes, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.

Use with MB

  • Enhanced Mitochondrial Activity

  • Methylene blue and red light boost ATP production.

  • Methylene blue facilitates the electron transport chain.

  • Red light activates cytochrome c oxidase.

  • Increased Penetration Depth

  • Methylene blue acts as a photosensitizer, absorbing red light.

  • Enables deeper tissue penetration and controlled ROS generation.

  • Antimicrobial Effects

  • Methylene blue has antimicrobial properties when activated by light.

  • The combination enhances antimicrobial effects against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. If that’s not profound, I don’t know what to tell you.

  • Neuroprotective and Cognitive Benefits

  • Methylene blue offers cognitive benefits and neuroprotection.

  • Red light therapy supports neuron repair and reduces brain inflammation.

  • Combined use potentially enhances neuroprotection and cognitive functions.


This is the most profound thing I can tell you - show me a disease that doesn’t start with, or become worsened by inflammation, oxidative stress, or cellular dysfunction.

Ok. Now you’re a scientist, but remember that you should talk to a doctor, and remember that MB is also an MAOI.

Thanks for hanging with me.

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Lala Lou
Lala Lou
Jul 02

Thanks Chase. I have a RL/NIR set up myself. It is great to hear more evidence behind it. I feel better when using it. I am wondering also if you have opinions about cold plunging and/or contrast oxygen therapy.


Simona S
Simona S
May 10

Thank You for sharing :) Its super interesting. Could it maybe benefit Lupus patients where their mitochondria and cells are damaged? In the same time normal sun light spectrum is super damaging to these patients for all organs. Another question if I may ask Is it good enough to cover eyes with shades during this therapy? Into what level of darkness ? In some cases of dark masks the light still passes into eyes. Can it damage the vision?


Mar 05

Thank you, Chase. This is great information.


Thank you!


I’m loving it! A place to reference the gold we get in the FNL

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