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I haven’t found near infrared radiation referenced in the article - I‘m using near infrared as a brain hack, by shining a cheap 850nm LED light on my forehead. This has, over the last 2 years, enabled me to code for weeks on end, for 12+ hours a day, with only minor cognitive decline. It’s not something I really want to do, but sometimes it’s useful.

Before I started the near infrared routine (~5 minutes every other day), 5-6 hours of coding per day was all I could do - eg after coding for 8h, I noticed serious cognitive and emotional decline, and might need to do less the following day. Not anymore - nowadays I can be productive whenever I’m awake, with little side effects. Near infrared radiation is safe (thousands of studies demonstrated only very mild side effects), and is even used to treat Alzheimer’s. I have no idea why its beneficial effects are not more widely known - for some people, it’s life changing.

Sidenote: 850nm light works way better for me than 830nm.

Improving executive function using transcranial infrared laser stimulation (2015)


Transcranial infrared laser stimulation is a new non‐invasive form of low‐level light therapy that may have a wide range of neuropsychological applications. It entails using low‐power and high‐energy‐density infrared light from lasers to increase metabolic energy. Preclinical work showed that this intervention can increase cortical metabolic energy, thereby improving frontal cortex‐based memory function in rats. Barrett and Gonzalez‐Lima (2013, Neuroscience, 230, 13) discovered that transcranial laser stimulation can enhance sustained attention and short‐term memory in humans. We extend this line of work to executive function. Specifically, we ask whether transcranial laser stimulation enhances performance in the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task that is considered the gold standard of executive function and is compromised in normal ageing and a number of neuropsychological disorders. We used a laser of a specific wavelength (1,064 nm) that photostimulates cytochrome oxidase – the enzyme catalysing oxygen consumption for metabolic energy production. Increased cytochrome oxidase activity is considered the primary mechanism of action of this intervention. Participants who received laser treatment made fewer errors and showed improved set‐shifting ability relative to placebo controls. These results suggest that transcranial laser stimulation improves executive function and may have exciting potential for treating or preventing deficits resulting from neuropsychological disorders or normal ageing.

I asked this elsewhere but I’ll ask again here: how is this any different from just going outside?

Prof Hamblin (of Harvard) said in the video interview with the guy from selfhacked that sun at greater heights (multiple kilometers above sea level) does indeed give some of the beneficial effects that are observed with near infrared devices. Elsewhere, radiation is not strong enough to have the same effect.

For the time periods described it's probably not significant but exposure to sunlight does increase risk of skin cancer.

Sunlight increases the incidence of melanoma, but reduces mortality:


Interesting. Here in Australia we've had a decades-long campaign to reduce sun exposure as much as possible due to a wave of skin cancers in the '80s and '90s. It's been arguably too successful and now other health issues have become prevalent (eg. vitamin D deficiency) due to too little sun exposure.

Humans evolved while being baked in the sun, it'd be surprising if eliminating sunlight almost completely didn't come with some downsides.

That's probably due to a healthier lifestyle.

Other studies have adjusted for the effects of BMI and exercise levels, and sun exposure is still significantly inversely associated with all cause mortality:


Over a period of 20 years, you will double your risk of dying if you avoid sun exposure.

Not everyone lives in a sunny tropical paradise.

it more reminds me about sitting in front of campfire and my grandmother's house wood stove in the childhood. This is probably how i got so smart.

That would be more far infrared than near infrared, meaning there is almost no penetration deeper than 1 millimeter or stgh.

Wish what people living in those sunny tropical paradise wants to?

It’s easier to have a lamp at your desk than it is to work outside

how powerful is this LED? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4870908/ seems to suggest you need several watts.. "snouf and colleagues reported that only 34% of an 850 nm continuous light source at 100 mW could penetrate 0.784 mm of human skin. Approximately 89% of 820 nm light will penetrate 0.4 mm of epidermis (Kolari, 1985) and about 13.5% traverses 2 mm of skin (Henderson and Morries, 2015a). Our laboratory research shows considerably less penetration by low level NIR. We found energy from a 50 mW 810 nm LED did not penetrate 2 mm of human or sheep skin (Henderson and Morries, 2015a). Similarly, no energy could be detected penetrating either human skin or sheep skin from a 200 mW LED (650 + 880 nm). Using higher energy devices, we found 9% of the energy from the 10 W combined 810/980 nm continuous wave infrared laser passed through 2 mm of skin (human or sheep)."

Interesting article. The dosage is controlled by J/cm^2 in most of the studies I'm looking at - so time and distance from the emitter are the other factors.

eg, This study used an array of 500mW LEDs and a 10 minute exposure to achieve 13 J/cm^2.


Alas, I didn't measure it with a meter (since I don't have any), but according to the spec it draws 14W with a panel size of ~70 square centimeters. There's diffraction and everything, but since I put it directly on the skin, it's fair to assume that the theoretical absorption is 200mW/centimeter. BUT, power loss is huge (cheap infrared LEDs are below 50% efficiency), I don't think that, all in all, more than 30% of the input energy are preserved. So that would be 60mW/centimeter.

I'm seeing a lot of comments, both positive and negative, but no answer to the important question: what the hell is the mechanism? How is this light supposed to actually get through to your brain? These aren't X-rays or microwaves; like visible light, infrared light gets stopped almost completely by skin.

>like visible light,, infrared light gets stopped almost completely by skin

Actually light passes through skin rather easily. You can test this by putting a flashlight up to your hand. Light even acts as a catalyst for nutrients in your body according to some recent studies:


Maybe a fraction can pass through the scalp, but what about the skull?

Near infrared light is of lower frequency than visible light, so it can penetrate matter more easily. UV light barely passes through more than a few layers of skin cells (thereby potentially overloading those cells with a lot of energy, causing DNA damage), while visible light can go millimeters deep, and near infrared can go even deeper. Near infrared can be used to measure bone density. This would not work if bone were fully opaque to IR light.

Seriously, why is nobody else asking THIS question.

I'm usually convinced there are a ton of really smart people on HN... much smarter than myself. Yet, this thread is one of those few times where I'm found doubting.

Either I am just totally missing the facts here, or yea... there's some wild placebo + self convincing going on.

You are missing facts indeed, see my sibling comment.

quantum tunneling

You might be interested in biophotons: human body emits dim light constantly. These photons may be functional and not just a byproduct. Many sources are a bit 'woo', so take with a grain of salt, but there is an idea floating around that some molecules are excited by specific wavelengths, and so by targeting cells with these wavelengths you can preferentially change the reaction rate of certain molecules it contains.

Your body will naturally develop an immunity, a bit like a callus, to constant IR light. To counteract this use an IR light with Pulse Width Modulation, such as a TV control.

Then post pictures of yourself holding a remote to your head so that you can help educate others about your medical breakthrough.

Get an ESP32 and drive a MOSFET through a GPIO pin that in turn drives the LED array.

Then use the WiFi on it and make it controllable through Alexa. Hands free operation!

This is a widely known effect. I work for a big outsourcing company, they equip developers in open spaces with small personal infrared LEDs. It can be mounted to a headset and programmatically connected to pomodoro time tracker, so that they are switched on during rest periods automatically.

If you are not trolling, what country is this company in? I'm also curious why it only switches on during rest periods?

This is astonishing. Can you provide any more information or evidence of the prevalence of this practice?

Thanks; this sounds amazing. I’m gonna do some more research on it to see if there’s any more information about the safety and technique. I just purchased an 850nm setup on Amazon to try it out. Does this look anything like what you use? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075F7NV56/

Mine has more and smaller LEDs, but I think this one should do nicely.

Wouldn’t get the same if not more of all the wavelengths by just sitting outside for 5 minutes? Is that maybe what you’ve been missing?

You're not missing anything, sufficiently bright natural sunlight would have the same effect.

No, radiation is not strong enough to have a significant effect, according to Prof Hamblin. Locations that are higher up (mountains) are better in that regard.

Could you elaborate on this? What exactly LED bulb are you using, what is your exact current routine? 5 mins in the morning? The professional ones are very expensive, could you share your solution?

I have several devices, one from a manufacturer called "Red Light Man", but the best effect I get with a $25 CCTV infrared radiator (850nm) that didn't even have a power adapter shipped with it. Photobiomodulation is ideal at 830nm (maximal energy resorption by chromophores in human cells), so 850nm is quite close to optimal. There are more expensive solutions of course, even therapeutic lasers that cost a couple thousand dollars. There are people who self-assemble helmets with laser diodes. LEDs and lasers can also be pulsed, to allow deeper penetration without overheating tissue. If you search for "LED infrared device" or "photobiomodulation" you should find lots of options.

Do you mind explaining your routine of 5 minutes every other day? Is this recommended from a study?

It's basically self experimentation, and cross-checked with literature to make sure I don't overdose. Overdose is not that bad (it surely happened to me), slight light-headedness and confusion for a few hours, in my case. Not stay-at-home bad, only a bit annoying. I quickly learned not to overdose, and haven't for over a year. Prof Hamblin from Harvard gave an interesting video interview with the guy from selfhacked (should be on youtube) where he mentions that he uses near infrared on his forehead to increase cognitive function, for a certain timespan (don't remember how often he does it). Since he's probably the most versed person (with a scientific background) on that topic, I thought it would be valid.

Very interesting. Last question, do you mind linking the exact CCTV led model you're using? Just so that I have a baseline for experimentation. Thanks for the info!

Is this similar to the hair restoration helmets that use lights/lasers?

They use the same principle yes. Hair growth seems to be a mixed bag for near infrared though, it works for some people but not all.

> Sidenote: 850nm light works way better for me than 830nm.

You might want to check out 1064nm laser stimulation as well (instead?), based on the research done in "Transcranial laser stimulation improves human cerebral oxygenation"[0].

0 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066697/

Thank you, I'll check it out!

I prefer to put my head in the oven with the gas on, especially when I am trying to tackle a landslide of difficult problems

That’s cool that it works well , but aren’t there trade-offs for everything?

This method seems to help your brain work more because it increases its metabolism but that might also cause your brain to age faster right?

The harder you work something, the faster you wear it down.

Is my logic flawed or am I missing something? Just curious.

Photobiomodulation does not work cells/mitochondria harder, but on the contrary, it releases nitric oxide from cells which is a by-product of oxidate stress. The immediate positive effects are probably from vasodilation, which increases blood flow to tissue, and increased ATP production via the cytochrome C oxidase pathway. Longer term beneficial effects might stem from increased stem cell proliferation and suppression of inflammation (inflammation is highly suspected to be based on a lack of energy in cells, so it makes sense that increasing ATP production helps in that area).

Here is a study where near infrared light actually increased lifespan for fruit flies:

Ageing is an irreversible cellular decline partly driven by failing mitochondrial integrity. Mitochondria accumulate DNA mutations and reduce ATP production necessary for cellular metabolism. This is associated with inflammation. Near-infrared exposure increases retinal ATP in old mice via cytochrome c oxidase absorption and reduces inflammation. Here, we expose fruitflies daily to 670 nm radiation, revealing elevated ATP and reduced inflammation with age. Critically, there was a significant increase in average lifespan: 100–175% more flies survived into old age following 670 nm exposure and these had significantly improved mobility. This may be a simple route to extending lifespan and improving function in old age.


This is a good point and I think it's a safe assumption that you're right, but here's another tid bit to consider:

Perhaps some people have abnormally SLOW brain aging / metabolism. This would be a way for them to get back to normal?

Can't tell if satire but if not can you provide us with some links as to why you decided to try it and how you decided on the specific setup?

> Scalp application of red and NIR light is a new application for LED technology. More than 30 years ago, however, it was observed in human cadaver studies that red (600 nm) and NIR (800–900nm) wavelengths could penetrate through the scalp and skull (∼ 1 cm). Two physiological changes associated with exposure of cells to red and NIR wavelengths of light are: 1) Increased production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by the mitochondria, and 2) Increased vasodilation/regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), explained subsequently.


whoa. so a helmet that bathes your skull in near infrared light could supercharge your brain (or fry it...)

2y ago I was reading selfhacked.com a lot, and photobiomodulation/LLLT kept popping up. The founder also interviewed Prof Hamblin, and I found that one _very_ interesting [1] and wanted to give it a try. I started searching around, and found lots of promising studies. Even 2 small studies with LED helmets that vastly improved Alzheimer's symptoms (at least for ~2 weeks, so patients need to keep up the routine; they actually produced some for the study alumni so they would not relapse). I anxiously put that cheap CCTV light on my forehead for 3 minutes, and after ~30m noticed that my sense of smell improved greatly (probably because the root of my nose was also irradiated). I smelled slight scents that others didn't - so that was what tipped me off that this thing could really work. I also noticed a few hours later that I could think more clearly and with more endurance, for about 24h. So I just kept it up. Over time, the positive effects kept lasting longer, and then there were times where I didn't use it for weeks on end. Currently I use it a lot because I have a deadline to meet. It's a real life changer - I don't ever worry anymore that I can't finish a project because I'm brain dead after a few days of intensive work. Being able to fully rely on your ability to make money is huge if you previously were not. I also know that I'll be able to learn and apply new concepts if needed, no matter how tired I am (I have little kids).

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAW8Fvg-TJQ&t=662s

Do you notice much difference between just flashing those CCTV lights at your head vs making a helmet of some sort?

I'm curious to try it, so far I mostly see positive responses from those who have but I am yet to invest more time into researching it.

It's a shame the wavelength needed is so specific, or you could use a garden variety remote control...

Just use an all in one remote and set it to a Toshiba L9300 Series

Imagining a bunch of hacker news readers heading to purchase LED lights to shine at their heads just made my day.

In a noisy open plan office, with one of those noise reducing helmets, SADS lamp, earplugs, white noise, popping adderall, barista delivering espressos to feeding tube, etc.

I think I might have just figured out where Daleks came from... and why they're so angry all the time.

I actually wonder why they haven't already. Even Jack Dorsey has a near infrared bulb at this desk, it was mentioned in an article about his daily routine.

I just ordered a dozen for my entire team!

Am I on your team? If not, can I be!??

Just buy a cheap CCTV 850nm radiator, they cost about $25. No need to change jobs to get one.

this is the most hacker news post i have ever seen that doesnt involve Rust

Now that you said "Rust" I'm sure all their phones are beeping with alerts and they'll come in and comment.

Old USENET folks will remember having to say "Trkey" and "Kbo" to avoid certain people finding the thread. I think on Hacker News, we will need to say "R*st"

This is the funniest post I've ever read on this website

Either it's entirely the placebo effect, or it somehow actually does something and you're cooking your brain to wage slave even harder

Regardless of the validity of the effect they are describing, this is an incredibly mean and nasty comment.

They are describing a personal experience so that others may research it further should they choose to.

I agree they haven't shared any objective evidence to add credibility to their claims, but our response should be to ask for more evidence, not to mock and sneer.

"cooking your brain to wage slave even harder"

Not just mean, but wrong; as another commenter pointed out, they seem to be self-employed, and for all we know, could have a serious reason (e.g., financial challenges, important work) why it matters a lot to be highly productive, at least occasionally (note they literally wrote "It’s not something I really want to do, but sometimes it’s useful”).

For what it's worth, here's an article from 2014 that examines research into this kind of practice and finds evidence for its efficacy [1].

Other studies have found evidence that transcranial infrared energy may be beneficial for cognition [2] or illnesses such as Alzheimer's [2] and MS [3].

That said, it's not the kind of thing I would try, at least not regularly, as I take the view that artificial interventions like this likely carry some kind of side-effect or cost that renders negative or at-best neutral over the long-term (I feel the same way about pharmaceuticals and stimulants like caffeine).

But I have used infrared light in other ways to address issues like muscle tension and inflammation, which is common and often recommended by mainstream doctors.

But please, keep comments like this off HN. It's meant to be a place for curiosity and respectful discourse. The derision and contempt you displayed has no place here.

[1] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnsys.2014.0003...

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-42693-x

[3] https://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-08-publish-brain-ms-fnir...

Mean-spirited post. The OP appears to be working for his own design/development studio, so your premise is already wrong. Others could be doing it because they want to be more productive at work in order to finish quicker and spend more time with their families at home.

A simple "pubmed near infrared brain" web search will yield enough results to dispel your concerns somewhat. Overdosing is of course not desirable, so yes, don't use a 10W laser for several minutes. There are plenty of therapeutic options which make it hard to overdose.

Since you mentioned wage slaving - I chose coding performance as an example, but I could also have mentioned improved guitar playing skills. Or being a better listener. On average, I don't code that much more now, maybe 6h per day (as a freelancer, there's also lots of other things to do).

So do you just tape the thing to your third eye or something? Do you have some kind of harness rigged up for it?

Or we live in a reality where that just works, no cooking involved. That would also be amazing and hilarious.

"This one simple trick..."

snake-oil salesmen hate him

Placebo or not, I have turned the post into a business plan and have just submitted what I think will be an award winning pitch to YCombinator.

>> wage slave

Keep the personal attacks off here. There is no need for this.

Halfway through, I also thought this was some next level satire.

Don't listen to these bums, there are much more people that agree with you. Its just that butt-hurt is a greater comment motivator than agreement.

I honestly couldn't tell if the comment was just really good satire. It sounds like something right out of a dystopian anthology series.

It was not. Do look it up, good keywords are "lllt", "photobiomodulation", "cytochrome c oxidase".

This is peak n-gate.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to reading that summary, too. I hope it gets better than the original thread as a noticed the quality of n-gate summaries go down a bit recently.

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