About Paolo Cassano, MD, PhD

Dr. Paolo Cassano is assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of Photobiomodulation at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Depression and Clinical Research Program and Principal Investigator at the MGH Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders.

Dr. Cassano received both his MD and PhD in clinical neuro-psychopharmacology from the University of Pisa. He pursued post-doctoral studies in mood and anxiety disorders with the MGH DCRP and graduated from the MGH-McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency Program in 2009 at Harvard University.

Since 2009, Dr. Cassano has led multiple studies on transcranial photobiomodulation with near-infrared light for anxiety and mood disorders, including translational studies aimed at discovering the mechanisms of action of photobiomodulation. His translational studies have focused on the effects of near-infrared light on mitochondria, cerebral blood flow (DCS), on brain electrical activity (EEG) and on autonomic reactivity (HRV). For his studies on photobiomodulation, he was awarded competitive, national grants such as the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD.

These groundbreaking projects have demonstrated preliminary efficacy of near-infrared light for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Considerable press attention stemmed from these studies, with CNN, Washington Post and Boston Globe coverage at the national level. He has coauthored more than 50 publications and he is the Associated Editor of Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery.

In 2016, under Dr. Cassano’s leadership, the MGH Psychiatry Photobiomodulation Clinic was started at the MGH CATSD and DCRP programs, for the off-label use of transcranial photobiomodulation in psychiatry. 

Departments, Centers, & Programs:

Clinical Interests:




Mass General Psychiatry: Depression Clinical & Research Program
One Bowdoin Square
6th Floor
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617-726-8895

Mass General Psychiatry: Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders
One Bowdoin Square
6th Floor
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 866-449-6779

Medical Education

  • PhD, University of Pisa Graduate School
  • MD, University of Pisa School of Medicine & Surgery
  • Residency, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Fellowship, S. Chiara Hospital, University of Pisa
  • Fellowship, Saint-Pierre University Hospital

American Board Certifications

  • Psychiatry, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Accepted Insurance Plans

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I am a researcher and a clinician; my work addresses inequality in brain health, which hampers people’s lives. I am interested in revolutionary interventions to treat and to prevent brain disorders. My focus is on the use of light (photobiomodulation with red and near-infrared light) to improve brain health. Near-infrared light is natural, as it represents one third of sunlight. 

Brain disorders are just the tip of the iceberg. For all healthy people, who are fortunate not to experience symptoms of a brain disorder, the brain is still continuously under the wear and tear of life stressors and of aging. Prolonged stress affects our brain by leading to excessive inflammation and oxidation of the brain, as well as by decreasing brain energy and brain rejuvenation (also called neuroplasticity). Overtime, this cumulative brain damage is considered to predispose to brain disorders.

Among the new potential interventions, photobiomodulation with red and infrared light specifically targets the wear and tear of the brain and brings new hopes of improving or maintaining brain health. 

My efforts, as a clinician and scientist, are focused on making this new intervention available to people, on studying its clinical applications and on guiding its optimal use. 

Brain health is essential to mothers and fathers who want to decrease their chances of contracting a familial brain disease, such as dementia. Brain health is also important to daughters and sons who during puberty are more at risk of mood and anxiety disorders and of suicide. The lack of brain health is likely to affect all our relationships: in the couple, at home, at work and in life in general; therefore, altering the bonds, which make life meaningful. 

By addressing their brain health, people might have an opportunity to blossom and to strive for what they believe in; possibly, to overturn an unfair script of their biology.  



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