Alzheimer’s is a mental disease that affects the memory, thinking and behavior of a person. It is in fact a progressive form of dementia and it currently affects about 44 million people in the world.
It is believed that the death rate of Alzheimer’s is very high and in the case of older generation it comes immediately after heart disease and cancer. In the USA Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death and accounts for more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive type of dementia, that in the beginning shows mild symptoms, but in time they aggravate impeding the affected person to perform even the simplest tasks.
For this disease there is no cure, only medications that can slow down some of the progressing symptoms. For that reason, neuroscientists have conducted several researches trying to detect the reason for developing Alzheimer’s and ways how to treat it.
A team of scientists at MIT have conducted a research by imitating the brain waves that oscillate at different frequencies. In a healthy person the Gamma brain waves operate at around 30 to 100 Hz and are related to higher-order cognitive functions, but in the case of Alzheimer’s these waves are reduced. Therefore, they focused on the brain waves and how to restore them.
In a previous research on mice, scientists applied flashing light, 40 times a second, into the eyes of the mice that had this disease and the results were positive. Into this research they have added a sound of a similar frequency, and the results were more than good, namely the strobe lights along with a low pitched buzz can be used to recreate brain waves that have been lost as a result of Alzheimer.
Li-Huei Tsai, one of the team of researchers at the MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, stated:
“When we combine visual and auditory stimulation for a week, we see the engagement of the prefrontal cortex and a very dramatic reduction of amyloid.”
The number of amyloid plaques got dramatically lowered, and they were cleared in large portions of the brain, even in areas related to cognitive functions such as learning and memory.
However, this non-invasive treatment must be applied continuously, as most of the positive effects fade away after making a break of only one week.
The used frequency was about 40 Hertz that any human can hear that clears the nearby hippocampus, the brain area linked to memory.
Mice that have been treated in this way showed better performance in various cognitive tasks. According to researchers this therapy will lead to overall neuroprotective effects that will be visible even in the later stages of neurodegeneration.
Other scientists are hopeful that this treatment will show positive effects. Nancy Kopell, a professor of mathematics and statistics at Boston University, stated the following:
“Though there are important differences among species, there is reason to be optimistic that these methods can provide useful interventions for humans.”
Shannon Macauley, a neuroscientist at Wake Forest School of Medicine, said: “It’s a very provocative idea. It’s noninvasive and easy and low cost, potentially, so if it were to come to fruition in humans—that’s fabulous.”
Although this research is still in progress and it has been tested solely on mice, there is a hope for the Alzheimer’s patients, that there will be treatments that will help with their condition. There is the need for more clinical trials and specifically in humans, but this drug-free treatment could be an effective and inexpensive treatment of Alzheimer’s provided that it shows same positive effects in humans like it did on mice.