Episode 421: How to Heal Your Mind and Body with Dr. David Tate

Episode Summary

In this episode, we meet the extraordinary Dr. David Tate. Throughout this episode, you’ll learn what Smart Light Therapy is, how it works, and how to start your own treatment and experience its benefits without spending a dime. You’ll also hear about the different ways of using Smart Lights to heal, what kind of devices can perform these treatments, and where to get them safely.

Rob Shallenberger: Welcome back to our Becoming Your Best Podcast listeners. We’re grateful that you’re here to join us today. This is going to be another one of those awesome podcasts where we’re going to introduce something that might be new, I’m guessing, for the majority of people listening to this. I learned about this—meaning light therapy and the power of smart light and different things around that arena—several years ago, and then I learned a lot more in the last year working with Dr. David Tate, who is on our podcast today. He owns a business that really zeroes in on this. Well, I’ll let him tell you a little bit more about that, but he’s one of the leading experts in the world on light therapy, the power of light, the healing qualities behind it, and everything related to it. With that being said, we’ll dive into all those details. Welcome to the podcast, Dr. Tate. Why don’t you tell everyone a little bit about yourself? Give us a little brief background on you. 

Dr. David Tate: Sure. I appreciate the opportunity to visit with you in this setting and talk a little bit about the things that we do here at Valhalla. Valhalla is the name of our company. My background is that I’m a clinical and research neuropsychologist. I’ve been doing academic work at a number of different universities, including Harvard Medical School, and I worked for the Department of Defense. My research is focused on brain injury and concussion, PTSD, and diagnosing those things as well as treating those things. That is where I have arrived. Recently, over the last four or five years, I’ve learned a number of things about light and how light might improve the functional outcomes of individuals who have suffered a brain injury or have PTSD. So, that’s how I’ve arrived at this point in my career, which is shifting from academics, writing manuscripts, and publishing papers to treating patients in a clinic setting that we have here in Utah. So, that’s a bit of my background briefly. Again, glad to be here and be talking about these things. This gets me pretty excited because we’re seeing lots of benefits in this space on a regular basis. Watching people feel better and get better is way better than writing grants and publishing papers. 

Rob Shallenberger: Well, let’s jump into and talk about this because it was probably four years ago that I bought a little red light therapy thing for our bedroom, and that was good. But now, actually using your services for the last six months or so, I realize that what we have in our bedroom, while it might be good, there is a lot better out there. So, having learned a lot about this and still having a lot more to learn, what is smart light therapy? Let’s assume that someone’s heard nothing about this and tell us about what smart light therapy is for. You mentioned concussion, PTSD, and brain injury—those are some of the things it’s used for. What other things can it help or benefit? Maybe let’s just start there: what is smart light therapy? 

Dr. David Tate: Smart light cell therapy is the science of using lights at different wavelengths or colors. We use those lights, and what we’re finding out through research and science is that there are molecules in the cells called chromophores. These chromophores absorb these different wavelengths or colors of light. As they do so, it actually winds up changing the behavior of those cells. So, we’re using the science of light to modify behavior at the cellular level. A number of these changes that are really consistently illustrated in the science and the published research that’s out there is that we are changing the inflammatory response, so we see less inflammation. We see improvements in circulation, so we see better blood volume in and out of tissue. The third thing we see is a change in the energy production in the cell. So, the mitochondria, the little powerhouse of the cell, the organelle within the cell that produces the energy that our cells use to perform their function, actually change and improve the efficiency of energy production. So, if you think about all of the chronic illnesses and conditions, injuries, or even chronic stress, these kinds of things result in changes in inflammation, circulation, and energy production. You can start to see that these lights have broad application across a number of conditions that are out there. Though we tend to focus on brain injury and concussion, we certainly see patients who have all sorts of other conditions, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, dementias, we see people with mood disorders, and things like that, that tend to come into our space and seek our services here. We’re more on the general wellness side of things, but we do have some conditions that we tend to focus on. But then again, see lots of other people coming into our space and seeking our services. 

Rob Shallenberger: With that as the foundation, let’s go into the research because I know there’s going to be some people listening to this who are skeptics or cynics; they’re going to be like, “Yeah, right. Light, whatever.” So, what’s the research behind this? You and I were talking about this one time in your clinic that this is something that’s not just a fly-by-night thing. There’s actually a lot of research around this at this point: case studies, double-blind studies — all kinds of stuff. If you don’t mind, maybe talk to some of the research around this, and then I’m going to have a few specific questions about the light itself and some examples, but let’s talk about some of the research. I would love to hear this as well. 

Dr. David Tate: I like to talk about this, too, because, like I said, I’ve been an academic research scientist for a number of years, almost 30 years now. When I first heard about these lights and the potential benefits that they were to have, I was quite skeptical, too; that’s just my nature. In fact, I felt like someone was selling me a bill of goods and that this was kind of hokey. But this individual actually participated in a research study, in a clinical trial, and wound up showing, in the context of describing what he went through and the treatments he underwent. They actually had neuroimaging results, and one of the imaging results was an MRI. It’s called functional imaging. It’s a way of looking at the functional connectivity in the brain. There were clear changes or improvements that were easily visualized from pre to post-treatment scans. I was intrigued by that and went back to the research literature after our meeting and started looking at what might be out there available and known about photobiomodulation; that’s the technical term for light therapy. It’s called Photobiomodulation—photo (light), bio (life), modulation (modifying the biology with light). There, I came to find out that it’s been around for about 70 years. There are thousands of published papers. They range from everything from basic animal science to human studies. There are a number of Phase II and Phase III clinical trials now looking at these lights in a number of conditions, everything from addiction disorders, pain management, mood management, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, brain injury, and concussion. So, there is some really good science, and it’s quite mature at this point. In fact, it’s so mature that we understand at a cellular level which molecules are absorbing these lights, wavelengths, and colors of light. As in the immune system, one of the things that your immune system does is that it actually is the basis or part of the immune or inflammatory response. You can activate the immune system after an injury, and you get immune cell activation, and these cells will aggregate at locations where the injury or the cut is. It’s meant to stabilize the injury; it’s meant also to provide a barrier to infection and other things. You can get this inflammatory response from the immune cells. On these immune cells that are activated, at this point, the science knows the specific chromophore. Then, within the cell, this chromophore will activate signaling pathways, specific ways that the cell talks and combines things within the cell. A signaling pathway is “this chemical is going to mix with this chemical, and then it produces this outcome or this behavior in the cell.” It gets quite complicated and specific. 

Dr. David Tate:  We know the chromophore and the signaling pathway. Then, we get a different behavior from the immune cell; we see less of the edema or the aggregation of these immune cells, and we see debris removal [10:30 inaudible] the technical word for debris removal. So, you’re removing the metabolites, the damaged cells, and all of those things, and that promotes healing in that location. So, we see less edema or swelling, and you get more of the debris removal. Consequently, we see improvements in the healing process, whether it’s a wound, whether it’s a knee or joint injury, or if it’s in the brain as a result of a traumatic brain injury, we can actually also see those changes. The science gets quite specific. So, the mitochondria, very quickly: It’s the cytochrome c oxidase, step four in the chain of ATP production; that’s the chromophore; that’s the molecule that’s absorbing these wavelengths of light. We see oxygen utilization at that location actually change so that we sometimes see a reversal from anaerobic to aerobic production of energy in the cell, which is way more efficient comparatively. Typically, in an anaerobic setting, without oxygen, you get one ATP in and you get two ATP out; that’s a very low rate of energy production. If you’re going to try to heal an injury or repair an injury, it’s very energy-intensive. You want the cells to be producing energy very efficiently. If you go to the aerobic production of ATP, it can be up to 15 times more efficient, so you get lots more energy. That energy then translates into cells living longer, repairing faster, and replicating better. We see stabilization of neurochemistry. We see the stabilization of other processes that are routine activities that cells are engaged in. 

Dr. David Tate: There’s some really good science; it gets really complicated and way above my head and difficult to understand, but there’s some really good science. For example, MGH, Mass General Hospital, actually has a chair endowed for doing research in light therapies at this point. That’s a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital. Every Friday, they’re actually doing Grand Rounds, clinical rounds, where they are having researchers from all over the world who are coming and presenting the science behind this. Again, it’s getting very mature, and they are looking at all sorts of ways to improve the benefits of these lights. It’s just growing exponentially at this point. So, it’s a really fun space to be in. That’s some of the science; the science is really quite mature in some respects. 

Rob Shallenberger: Let me talk through a couple of things here so our listeners can maybe visualize this if they’ve never done it before or seen it. You can correct me if I’m wrong on this, but it seems like there are different ways. I’ve sat in your office before; you have a little device. It’s really almost like a handheld device that you can just move across the forehead, which seems like really strong LED lights or even lasers. Then, we have some of those other beds that people can envision like a tanning bed. Although it’s not a tanning bed, it’s these specific lights and wavelengths that you’re referring to. You lay in the bed for 20 minutes. What’s been interesting to me, and I’m still trying to figure this out exactly, but I think you’re helping me understand is you can go through different profiles. You have Valhalla health, you have immunity, you have Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s — the different profiles. If I understood correctly, there are different wavelengths, there are different sequences, which I think you helped tie it to a little bit better here a few minutes ago, if I understood you correctly, in that you’re able to target certain cells, certain areas, based on wavelengths and, I don’t know what you’d call it, modulation of that wavelength. All that to say, for people that haven’t done this before: you have the handheld devices, you have the bed that you lay in for 20 minutes, maybe just talk through the differences in those because there are many people listening to this in different countries that may not have accessibility to some of these things, even places in the United States. I think it’d be helpful if you could talk through the different ways that you can actually do this. 

Dr. David Tate: There are a number of different ways that are very targeted ways; that’s probably what a lot of people have heard about because it’s been around a little bit longer, is called low-level laser technologies. These are typically handheld devices that can deliver much more targeted treatment: neck and shoulders. If someone has whiplash injuries and has knots in myofascial trigger points inflammation, we can actually target those very specifically with these wavelengths or with these devices. Then, there are panels. Panels are quite popular these days, and you see quite a few of them. You get on Amazon, you can see them in your Instagram feeds, and you just see them all over the place. These are devices that have anywhere from two feet to four feet wide panels with lots of LEDs in those panels that can deliver these treatments. Then, we have these pods or these tanning beds that you lay in unclothed so that we expose as much skin to the light as possible. Clothing absorbs light, so you don’t want to be doing these treatments over your clothing. That’s one of the things. There are a lot of devices, and the way they are advertised is not always useful, in my opinion. You’ll have someone doing a yoga pose with one of these panels sitting in the room with them. That’s not how they’re really designed to work and deliver their dosing. So, when you start to get into the nitty-gritty and the fine print, you’ll find out that for those panels, you have to stand within six inches of them, unclothed, to actually get the dosage that may produce these benefits. So, there are some really interesting advertisements that are out there that I think are a little bit misleading. These devices do vary a lot in terms of the power output. So, that usually translates into how long I need to be in front of these lights to get an effective dose. There’s some science again behind that, and we’re learning that you have to be pretty close to these lights to get the benefits that we’re talking about. Otherwise, light starts to break down pretty quickly as it’s emitted from a light source, like an LED. Lasers have much more coherent light; it’s a little better light in terms of the penetration and depth that we get. 

Rob Shallenberger: I don’t want to name the company, but I mentioned, four years or so ago, we bought one of those panels, it’s a full-bodied one. We did exactly that. It’s like the rotisserie chicken that goes around.  I’d stand in front of it, and then you twist around, and you’re right in front of it. But there is a big difference between that and pods that you sit in, the tanning bed type, even though—again, I’m gonna reiterate that it’s not a tanning bed—that we lay in those, which I have done in your facility quite a few times. What you’re using there, obviously, those are way more expensive and way more intense on the light. What’s the difference between those? 

Dr. David Tate: There are a couple of things: one, the power output and the number of lights that we’re using will be different between those. We’re putting out much more power per square centimeter; that’s how they determine the joules per square centimeter, which is the metric that’s frequently used. The panels are only doing a certain level, but the pods are actually generating a lot more power; they have a lot more lights. That equates to a term called irradiance—the amount of light that we’re exposing the skin to is increased. The third, and probably the most important thing, is that in our space here, we’re not just exposing you to continuous light. We’re not just turning the lights on and just leaving those wavelengths on continuously. What we’re doing is we’re actually pulsing at different frequencies. That means we’re turning the lights on and off very rapidly. By doing that, we see additional benefits; certain tissue resonates at different frequencies, and these frequencies are becoming known. As we learn more about these frequencies, we can actually target a little bit more specifically tissue types. One of the properties of light is that it has electromagnetic properties, so it has electrical properties, especially when you’re pulsing at these different frequencies. So, we can use a principle called entrainment—that means we’re retraining tissue to resonate at these more healthy frequencies. That is something that we’re doing differently here, too. People will sometimes notice, as they’re going through what we call a protocol, where we’re switching frequencies—these pulsing frequencies—throughout the treatment. In the 20-minute treatment, we might have five frequencies that we use. At different times, they might feel, “Oh, I feel that in my large muscles in my legs or my stomach. Oh, I feel that more in my neck and head, and I feel more calm and relaxed.” There are a number of different things that we can do in these pods that allow us to either stimulate or calm down the activity in certain tissue types. That is where we get additional benefits. It’s a part of the light that we’re still learning about. But it does give us a lot more options and ways to target much more specific kinds of things that we’re interested in helping people improve on. 

Rob Shallenberger: For those that haven’t done it before, imagine you’re laying in what looks like a tanning bed and say, there’s this red, white, green light, little tiny, LED-looking lights. They’ll be steady state for a little while, and then all of a sudden, they’ll flash multiple times a second for two or three minutes, and then they stop. So, to your point, kind of a cool experience. Every time that my wife and I have come out of those, we feel better. We just feel more invigorated. I know that some listeners might say, “Well, that’s a placebo effect.” Well, that’s why I started with research, because there’s so much research around this that it’s easy to refute that it’s not just a placebo effect. One thing, if you don’t mind, Dr. Tate, while we’re just talking about all of this. We touched on the lasers and the handheld devices. You mentioned to me, or maybe it was your son who mentioned to me in passing, when they were developing this new laser, or it’s already out or something, that they think can treat anxiety or depression in a dose or two. I didn’t quite fully understand what you were saying when he told me about that. But again, I’m just reiterating the power of where we’re going and some of the impacts this might have. What were you talking about? Does that ring a bell? 

Dr. David Tate: Yeah, it does ring a bell because these are things that are in [21:59 inaudible]. I’m a neuropsychologist, so I’m interested in mood disorders and things like that. We certainly have a significant number of those. COVID seemed to wreck everybody’s mental health in a number of different ways. So, we are seeing increased numbers of folks who are experiencing significant anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, those kinds of things. So, we’re very interested here at Valhalla to understand how we can use these lights to improve emotional function. Again, this goes back to the idea that we can pulse the light at different frequencies, so we can turn them on and off at different rates; we can control that. Because the brain primarily uses electrical signals to communicate with different brain regions, between brain regions, and the rest of the body, we can actually influence with these lights that electrical activity so we can pulse at these frequencies. We, here at Valhalla, have been working with companies and even contemplating our own devices where we could put these lights on someone’s head and pulse at different frequencies. If someone’s pretty anxious, they’re in that fight or flight state continually activated in that way, there are pulsing frequencies that we can use on the head directly, which will then lead to a change in the electrical activity of the brain so that we see them become more relaxed, mindful, and more meditative. Their anxiety symptoms are reduced as a result of that.  

Dr. David Tate: Again, we’re also influencing mitochondrial energy production. So, as you change the energy production in the mitochondria in the brain, then we see better regulation or much more consistent neurochemistry. That neurochemistry regulation will translate to much more even types of mood symptoms so people don’t have these big swings either throughout the day or as a result of other things that are happening in their lives. So, we’re very interested in those technologies and developing with people and even in our own space, technology that will take advantage of these lights and the properties that light has to manage some of these symptoms. The other thing that we do here, too, is we are constantly tracking people’s treatment progress. As people come in, we do assessments with them; we look at mood, sleep, and pain; sometimes, we’ll do cognitive assessments and balance, and then we’ll track their responses to these therapies using those different measurements. We frequently show people less anxious, less depressed, and even suicidal ideation; sometimes, we see significant changes in how frequently someone’s experiencing those kinds of symptoms. There really is something going on here. You mentioned placebo — I think that’s interesting because some people come in here, and they have some background, and they understand light a little bit, and they’re really excited to be here. I think that, in those cases, there’s a placebo that’s operating within the context of the benefits that we’re also seeing because of the light. We certainly have people who are coming in here, on the personal injury side of things, that are so skeptical, and they’re like, “You guys are crazy.” So, it’s a nocebo effect, where “this is not going to work for me,” “my lawyer’s making me come in here and do these treatments with you guys.” By the end, we’ve really won them over, and they are like, “Wow, I’m as surprised as anyone that this really does work.” 

Rob Shallenberger: I’m just going to reinforce what you’re saying right there because there’s actually a family that we both know, and I won’t use their name. They had a daughter who was in an accident—was it a snowmobile accident, or was it a car accident? She had a pretty significant concussion to the point where she wasn’t able to go to school; nothing else was really working. She came in and did a handful of treatments and was right back in school and really living a normal life again, and that was to the amazement of that family. So, to your point, this can be pretty significant for a lot of people, especially depending on what it is they’re coming in for. I can’t believe that we’re already at the 30-minute mark; that goes by so fast. 

Dr. David Tate: I can talk a lot, anyway. I’m sorry about that.  

Rob Shallenberger: The whole point of doing this is awareness. It’s to give people an awareness of additional tools and things that might be out there in the world that maybe they’re not familiar with already. One thing that’s fascinating to me, as we go on in time, is just the exponential increase in learning and development when we’ve been talking about light. With that, the average lifespan has been increasing pretty significantly in people. I’m not as focused on the increasing lifespan—I’m grateful for that and I like that—for me, it’s also about having the quality of life increase alongside that. It doesn’t really help to have a lifespan and go up to 90 or 100 if it’s low quality for 30 years. 

Dr. David Tate: You’re sitting in your chair all day long and can’t get out of it. Limited family interaction. 

Rob Shallenberger: It’s the longevity, but it’s also the quality of life next to it. These types of things that we’re talking about here can really help someone’s quality of life in a significant way. So, I realize you have two offices here in Utah, in the United States: one in Lehi and one in Heber City. Maybe if you could, at least, Dr. Tate, share your website where people can find you and if you have any other resources to find you. I know there’s other stuff out there that people can look for, but what you’re offering for those who can access it is a great starting point. So, how do people find you? 

Dr. David Tate: Our website is If you go to that, that will show you where our offices are. You can actually fill out a form online, and we’ll give you a call and talk to you about what we do. We do a free consultation and first free treatment. Then, we go from there with most people who are coming into our space for the first time. There are lots of other places that do these. You may have to experiment a little bit with those types of treatments to get the benefits that you want, meaning you may have to be in the lights a little longer if you don’t have as powerful a device or don’t have the pulsing or flashing options. If you don’t have access to these lights, this is one thing I would encourage you to do is that these wavelengths or these colors of light are more prominent during sunset and sunrise. So, even if you get up in the morning and you go stand out in the light of the sunrise or stand in the light of the sunset, you’re getting some of these wavelengths of light, and you can begin to do some self-treatments without having to come to Valhalla. So, there are options out there. I’d be very careful getting online on Amazon and buying any old red light device because I think that you’ll have very mixed results based on our experience with different technologies and different things in the space here. We’re also willing if you get on the website and have questions, we can respond to those as well. 

Rob Shallenberger: Well, Dr. Tate, it’s been an honor having you here today. We’ve been going there, for those that are able to access that, now for several months. What I love about what you do is you actually have custom programs that you program yourself based on your experience; that’s pretty unique. You have, I think it’s called the Valhalla Resilience. You can customize your own programs. Obviously, it takes experience and a lot of time and knowledge to be able to do that. For all of you listening today, I hope this has been beneficial. It’s one more arrow in the quiver of resources that we have that can help improve our health, which I know that we’re all conscious of. It’s part of this journey of becoming our best, the best versions of ourselves, and having that high quality of life that we all hope to have and we like to strive to have. For all our listeners, I hope you have a wonderful day and a great rest of your week. 

Dr. David Tate: Thanks for having me. 

Rob Shallenberger

CEO, Becoming Your Best

Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father

Dr. David Tate

Chief Technology Officer at Valhalla Cell Health

Chief Technology Officer, Neuropsychologist, Department of Defense & Harvard Medical School Researcher

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