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Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia and unfortunately there is no cure for this disease. Its treatment typically focuses on improving the quality of life of the patients or slowing down the symptoms.
Some studies suggest that exposure to flickering lights may help fight the disease. Gamma brainwaves - electrical activity in the brain - helps connect and process information in the brain. These gamma waves are diminished in people with Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers suggest that exposure to lights flickering may improve gamma-wave brain activity and help eliminate beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques are a key hallmark of Alzheimer's. In particular, lights flickering at 40 beats per second, or 40 hertz (Hz).
A team of scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta has made a promising development in the research into flickering light. Using mice, they have gained a better understanding of the therapeutic benefits of flickering light exposure for Alzheimer's disease.
In 2016, a study demonstrated that disruptions to gamma in mice resulted in an increased buildup of plaque protein between brain cells. They also found that exposing the mice to flickering light at 40 Hz helped improve gamma and reduce this plaque buildup. This resulted from the increase in the production of microglia, the brain's main immune cell.
However, they could not precisely determine how 40 Hz light increased microglia and improved the brain's immune response.
In the latest study, the scientists found that exposure to 40 Hz light stimulates the brain to release more cytokines a type of protein that communicates with other cells. This increases the activation of phosphate proteins.
In particular, the scientists say, more release of the cytokine Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor (M-CSF) points to the activation of microglia.
Although the results look very promising, the researchers warn that people should not experiment with light therapies as this research is still in the early stages.
They say the processes involved are not fully understood, and using incorrect frequencies may even harm the patients.
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