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Light Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease

I am delighted by the potential of this study… a non-invasive, sensory-based, simple treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that might just knock the pharmaceutical industry on their bums.

Published last week by MIT researcher Dr. Li-Huei Tsai, the outcomes are cautiously optimistic.

The short of it is that folks with Alzheimer’s have slower firing neurons than brains without Alzheimer’s disease.  The “Gamma” rhythm of neuron firing is in the range of 30-100 beats per minute, which is the norm in healthy brains.  Alzheimer’s brains rarely fire in the Gamma rhythm.

Dr. Li-Huei Tsai, neuroscientist at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, manipulated the gamma oscillations in the brains of Alzheimer’s mice.  Using flickering light, initially through invasive means and later non-invasively using flashing LED lights in a “Flicker Room”, the researchers noticed two things:

  1.  There was a noticable activation of microglia genes, the “janitors” of the brain
  2.  There was a 50% reduction of beta amyloid after the light therapy

An hour of light therapy equaled a 50% reduction in plaques and tangles.  Although the reduction didn’t last more than 24 hours, the activated microglia were put to work cleaning up the gunk.  A drug didn’t do that, light did.

Listen to the RadioLab podcast called “Bringing Gamma Back” for a great interview with Dr. Li-Huei Tsai.

Fascinating stuff!


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