Alzheimer’s disease has no cure at this point. Only a few therapies that try to slow the progression are available, but there’s a light, and some sound, at the end of the tunnel. Researchers at MIT and Georgia Tech have now shown they can reduce the buildup of amyloid plaques in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease using nothing but light and sound. Moreover, they were able to achieve a notable improvement in the mental abilities of the mice.
Previously, auditory gamma entrainment using sensory stimuli (GENUS), a technology that uses sound to sync up the brain to a certain frequency, was shown to improve hippocampal function. By adding light to the mix and using it to help sync to the desired frequency (40 Hertz) for one hour a day, the researchers saw that amyloid buildup throughout the neocortex of the mice was reduced. This may be because microglia, glial cells that work as macrophages, seem to surround chunks of the amyloid plaque and attack it following treatment..
The team removed and studied the brains of the mice following cognitive testing and saw that amyloid plaques were nearly completely cleared in large areas of their brains. Areas that control high level cognitive abilities were also effectively treated by the therapy of the plaques.
Because the therapy seems naturally safe, the researchers already performed an early safety study and will hopefully soon move onto testing this therapy on actual patients.
Image: At left, the mouse cortex shows a reduction in amyloid plaques following visual and auditory stimulation, compared to the untreated mouse at right.