Transcranial Photobiomodulation for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. the ELATED-2 Pilot Trial

Paolo Cassano, Samuel R. Petrie, David Mischoulon, Cristina Cusin, Husam Katnani, Albert Yeung, Luis De Taboada, Abigal Archibald, Eric Bui, Lee Baer, Trina Chang, Justin Chen, Paola Pedrelli, Lauren Fisher, Amy Farabaugh, Michael R. Hamblin, Jonathan E. Alpert, Maurizio Fava, Dan V. Iosifescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objective: Our objective was to test the antidepressant effect of transcranial photobiomodulation (t-PBM) with near-infrared (NIR) light in subjects suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD). Background: T-PBM with NIR light is a new treatment for MDD. NIR light is absorbed by mitochondria; it boosts cerebral metabolism, promotes neuroplasticity, and modulates endogenous opioids, while decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress. Materials and methods: We conducted a double-blind, sham-controlled study on the safety and efficacy [change in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D 17 ) total score at end-point] of adjunct t-PBM NIR [823 nm; continuous wave (CW); 28.7 × 2 cm 2 ; 36.2 mW/cm 2 ; up to 65.2 J/cm 2 ; 20-30 min/session], delivered to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, bilaterally and simultaneously, twice a week, for 8 weeks, in subjects with MDD. Baseline observation carried forward (BOCF), last observation carried forward (LOCF), and completers analyses were performed. Results: The effect size for the antidepressant effect of t-PBM, based on change in HAM-D 17 total score at end-point, was 0.90, 0.75, and 1.5 (Cohen's d), respectively for BOCF (n = 21), LOCF (n = 19), and completers (n = 13). Further, t-PBM was fairly well tolerated, with no serious adverse events. Conclusions: T-PBM with NIR light demonstrated antidepressant properties with a medium to large effect size in patients with MDD. Replication is warranted, especially in consideration of the small sample size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-646
Number of pages13
JournalPhotomedicine and Laser Surgery
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • depression
  • low-level laser therapy
  • randomized controlled trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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