Mental acuity is measured in a variety of ways.
Signs of declining mental acuity include brain fog and poor memory. Inability to focus or to make decisions quickly and decisively may also be warning signs.
Mental acuity tends to decline naturally as the brain ages. However, health, diet, and other therapeutic treatments can lead to better longevity.
Red light therapy (photobiomodulation) is one of the treatments making important headways in the world of brain science.
What is Mental Acuity?
Mental acuity measures the sharpness of the mind, or its ability to process information, respond to stimuli, and recall memories.
Mental acuity is essentially the same as cognitive acuity. Cognitive decline refers to reduced cognitive functioning due to a variety of causes.
How to Measure Mental Acuity
Mental acuity involves four primary overlapping brain functions:
The ability to isolate a sensory stimulus or focus on a task.
2. Memory recall
The ability to sort and recall memories or remember information relevant to specific situations.
3. Situational judgment
A combination of attention, information processing, memory, and attention all come into play when you need to make a decision, especially a fast decision when you’re faced with complex choices.
4. Crystallized Intelligence and Fluid Intelligence
There are two types of intelligence. Intelligence is often defined as the capacity for abstract and critical thinking, learning, logic and reasoning, the capacity to understand, self-awareness, emotional knowledge, planning, creativity, and problem-solving.
What Causes Decline in Mental Acuity?
Outside of aging, many lifestyle factors can contribute to a decline in mental acuity. Chronic stress, a sedentary lifestyle, excess alcohol or drug use, and lack of mental stimulation can all contribute to faster cognitive decline.
Other factors include:
- Sleep disturbances disrupt the circadian rhythms, causing sleep deprivation and mental fog.
- Poor blood circulation: The brain needs a lot of oxygen to work optimally. If blood oxygen levels are too low due to poor blood circulation, mental acuity suffers.
- The gut-brain axi: Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Gut microbes affect your immune system, which affects the inflammatory response. Inflammation can lead to neurodegenerative disorders, including dementia and schizophrenia.
- Dehydration: Many people are chronically dehydrated. Even being slightly dehydrated can affect mental acuity. Excessive sugar intake can affect brain connectivity and may even cause brain atrophy.
- Depression and anxiety are known to cause people to “freeze” mentally.
Red Light Therapy and Mental Acuity
Light plays a huge role in the way our brains work.
One of the ways that light affects mental acuity is by regulating the circadian rhythm. Certain wavelengths signal wakefulness and stimulate alertness and focus.
Increased screen time in the evening tends to disturb circadian rhythms and chronic sleep problems, which lead to long-term loss of cognitive performance.
The Power of Light
The ancient healing arts have long used natural sunlight as a treatment for various psychological disorders. Even today, light is used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well as those with major depression and anxiety.
Isolating red and near infrared (NIR) wavelengths is a safe and effective way to improve brain health. Red Light Therapy doesn’t expose the body to harmful UV rays found in sunlight or bright light therapy. Users of RLT, therefore, get the beneficial wavelengths without the UV risks caused by sun exposure.
Low level light therapy (LLLT) is in some ways similar to RLT, but LLLT involves the use of lasers and is usually conducted in a clinic. In contrast, our treatments can be done at home.
Red light therapy delivers precisely calibrated red/NIR wavelengths. Of all visible and invisible wavelengths, in thousands of studies, red/NIR waves have been shown to have very powerful beneficial effects on the body.
Photobiomodulation has been shown in numerous clinical trials to improve mental health and recovery from traumatic brain injury and strokes and to treat neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
NIR wavelengths positively impact brain health. Red wavelengths are also useful for skin regeneration and skin wound healing.
How Red Light Therapy Benefits the Brain
- Red Light Therapy Reduces Neuron Inflammation:
In a 2019 landmark paper, photobiomodulation expert Michael R. Hamblin studied the effect of red and NIR wavelengths on the brain. He found that photobiomodulation reduces inflammation in neurons, stating further that “while acute inflammation is positive, chronic inflammation can have very negative effects. Many diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases and mood disorders, can be traced at least in part to chronic inflammation.”
Chronic stress and environmental factors can cause inflammation in the brain, which in turn affects the neurons’ ability to function normally. There are demonstrated links between chronic stress and inflammation, and chronic inflammation and neurodegenerative disorders.
There is also a link between inflammation and poor memory, brain fog, and other signs of mental decline.
Neuroinflammation activates cells called microglia, which are part of the central nervous system’s immune defense. Microglia constantly hunt for damaged neurons, infections, and other problems, making them vital for treating neurodegenerative disorders.
Photobiomodulation promotes cell survival by preventing cell death, and by lowering oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants).
Oxidative stress is believed to be one of the main causes of inflammation, which makes it a key player in cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders.
- Improves Cellular Energy Production and Performance
Reduced cellular performance is a common sign of aging. It was once widely believed that as we age and neurons die off, they are not replaced. However, this turns out not to be true. According to emerging data, older adults continue to produce new neurons in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, two key components of mental acuity.
NIR treatment stimulates the mitochondria within each neuron to increase energy production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the primary cellular fuel, and to reduce premature cell death. This can bolster neurons’ ability to protect themselves from oxidative stress (which causes inflammation) and helps them self-heal from damage caused by inflammation or toxins.
Increasing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production and reducing inflammation could be the first step in reducing poor mental acuity or even reversing age-related cognitive decline.
- Neuroprotective Effects
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stimulating mitochondrial function may shift the microglia from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory. In this sense, it goes from getting rid of the pathogen to protecting the neurons through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that encourage healing.
Photobiomodulation can be thought of as a light-based antioxidant that protects neurons from inflammation and improves mitochondrial function.
- Increases Circulation
NIR wavelengths protect red blood cells from inflammation and promote the growth of vascular endothelial cells, which make up the walls of blood vessels.
- Promotes Synaptogenesis
Synaptogenesis, or neuroplasticity, refers to the brain’s ability to change in response to learning or after injury. Photobiomodulation facilitates neural organization or communication between neurons.
High-performing cells produce enough energy to heal, communicate, and perform their specialized functions at a much higher level than if they were struggling for survival after being damaged and depleted. Therefore, neural communication is vital for cognitive performance; and red light therapy can help.
- Promotes Stem Cell Synthesis
Stem cells are essential for health. They are the raw materials from which all other cells form. They proliferate in bone marrow and mobilize to the site of an injury or cell damage where they divide into “daughter cells” which then differentiate, becoming either specialized cells such as neurons, or new stem cells.
NIR wavelengths can absorb into the bones and stimulate stem cell synthesis.
- Promotes Sleep
Sleep is essential for mental acuity. Yet, many of us don’t get enough quality sleep or we sleep too little. In today’s digital age, poor sleep is often attributed to artificial light after dark and in particular, blue light emitted by our electronic devices and LED fixtures.