How brain cells respond.

Our brain cells have a pretty standard structure containing:

  • a boss – the nucleus which guards the genetic material and gives orders to the rest of the cell
  • a battery – the mitochondrion which does the chemical processing to give the cell energy to do what it is supposed to do.
    (one = mitochondrion; more than one = mitochondria)

Flat battery – car doesn’t work.  Flat mitochondrion – brain cell doesn’t work

It seems that a lot of degenerative brain diseases, whatever their causes, end up with struggling mitochondria. If the brain cell’s battery doesn’t work, the cell doesn’t have the oomph to do its job properly.

So what does the light do to the mitochondria in the cells?

For reasons unknown, the mitochondrial batteries in our cells are built with molecules, that are able to absorb red and near infrared wavelengths. Called chromophores, these molecules are particularly good at absorbing wavelengths 600 – 700nm (visible red) as well as wavelengths above 800nm (near infrared, getting to the edge of our vision).

Remember that light is energy. All cells need energy to function properly.

When the key wavelengths shine on the mitochondria, the chromophores slurp up the light energy and release it into the mitochondria through chemical reactions. It really is like recharging a battery.

The mitochondria are now fuelled up by the light energy, and their newly full battery can now kickstart the various activities for which that cell is responsible. If it is a cell in the part of the brain damaged by Parkinson’s Disease, then the cell starts to generate dopamine.

Red and near infrared light is transformed from light energy into metabolic energy.

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