Infrared light stimulate nerve cells; Mechanism and Further Research

Infrared laserResearchers have found the mechanism through which pulsed laser stimulations using infrared wavelengths help in therapy.

This research has been published online in the Journal of Nature Communications.

Researchers were of the opinion that optical stimulation through infrared wavelengths >1.5 µm has important therapeutic potential in neurological, cardiovascular and psychiatric disorders.

Researchers in this study worked on Xenopus laevis oocytes, cultured mammalian cells and artificial lipid bilayers and have found that infrared light results in the excitation of the cells through a general electrostatic mechanism. Infrared waves cause a local increase in temperature after absorption by water resulting in the reversible change of the electrical capacitance of the plasma membrane and depolarizes the target cell. These results strongly suggest that water is the main chromophore involved in infrared stimulation.

[hana-code-insert name='StumbleUpon' /][hana-code-insert name='Reddit' /] Researchers have also reported the future directions,

Further studies are needed to more precisely characterize the capacitive mechanism of infrared stimulation and explore how its knowledge may enhance the use of this technology in vivo. For example, it would be interesting to model the effect of infrared on ion displacement at the molecular level and the resulting changes in local potentials experienced by voltage-gated Na+ channels. Also, an understanding of the membrane properties of various cell types represented in vivo may help dissect which cells respond most strongly to infrared stimulation and mediate downstream physiological effects. Furthermore, it may be interesting to ask whether changes in cell membrane capacitance have a role when infrared, ultrasound or other forms of thermogenic energy are applied to other parts of the body. In the meantime, our finding that infrared stimulation produces its effect on cells by changing their membrane capacitance provides strong support for the use of this unique optical technology in biology and medicine.


Mikhail G. Shapiro, Kazuaki Homma, Sebastian Villarreal, Claus-Peter Richter & Francisco Bezanilla, (2012). Infrared light excites cells by changing their electrical capacitance. Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms1742