Published in the Neurology Department Newsletter at the U Medical School
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Larry Carr, PhD, had an exceptional college football career before going on to be a successful professor and academic; however, at age 58, Larry was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease that
afflicts many former football players. He was plagued with mood swings, depression, agitation, and paranoia. When a neuropsychologist asked how often he thought about suicide, Larry told the doctor,
“Every day.” There are currently no accepted treatments to mitigate the longterm effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Larry joined a new research study using photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy. PBM
produced significant improvements in Larry’s life. PBM involves shining red or near-infrared light onto the head. The treatment is experimental, but evidence so far suggests that this low-level light therapy coincides with improved memory, sleep, muscle strength and endurance, as well as reduced impulsivity and depression. The mechanisms by which these effects might be occurring are not yet understood.
The Carrs’ excitement over the success of PBM therapy led Larry to contact Drs. Elisabeth Wilde and David Tate to discuss the possibility of proving PBM as a viable approach to treating brain injuries. As an internationally known researcher and clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Wilde has worked with patients with TBI and concussion for over 20 years. As co-director of the University of Utah’s Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion Center and as a research health scientist, Dr. Tate has been heavily involved in medical imaging research used to examine TBI for over 25 years. They are thus an ideal team to demonstrate whether or not PBM works in the broader TBI-patient population and gain insight into its mechanism of action. Drs. Wilde and Tate have begun a large-scale study of PBM after TBI, which focuses on three groups: professional ex–collision athletes suffering long-term effects of injury, collegiate student athletes over a season of play, and firefighters and first responders under the strain of their physical and urgent work. In addition to cutting-edge imaging, these studies include innovative, new technologies, including sensors implanted in players’ mouth-guards to measure impact forces. And because PBM is noninvasive and portable, patients can deploy it themselves; for example, the first responders will undergo an eight-week, at-home PBM regimen.
Brandon and Christina Bond are longtime friends of Larry and Laurie Carr. They not only saw the Carrs’ long struggles with CTE but also Larry’s dramatic improvement after undergoing PBM therapy. In recognition of Larry’s journey and commitment to improve the lives of others, the Bonds have established the Larry and Laurie Carr PBM Research Fund and have generously agreed to fund half of the cost of the study, with a gift of $100,000. The Bonds said, “We are so happy to see Larry champion this important research, and we only hope its impact can be as profound on others’ suffering as it has been for
Larry and Laurie.”