Dec 9, 2016: MIT researchers have shown that by using flickering of LED lights at a specific frequency, the beta amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced.
This treatment that was done on mice, starts with inducing brain waves—gamma oscillations—that help the brain suppress beta amyloid production and invigorate cells, which are responsible for destroying the plaques.
Further research is required to find out if a similar approach could help Alzheimer’s patients, says Li-Huei Tsai, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and senior author of the study.
“It’s a big ‘if,’ because so many things have been shown to work in mice, only to fail in humans,” Tsai says. “But if humans behave similarly to mice in response to this treatment, I would say the potential is just enormous, because it’s so noninvasive, and it’s so accessible.”
“This important announcement may herald a breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, a terrible affliction affecting millions of people and their families around the world,” says Michael Sipser, dean of MIT’s School of Science. “Our MIT scientists have opened the door to an entirely new direction of research on this brain disorder and the mechanisms that may cause or prevent it. I find it extremely exciting.”
The researchers have built a device comprising a strip of LEDs programmed to flicker at different frequencies.
With the help of this device, they found that an hour of exposure to light flickering at 40 hertz boosted gamma oscillations and reduced beta amyloid levels by half in the visual cortex of mice in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s. However, the proteins returned to their original levels within 24 hours.