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15 Mar, 2019 17:35

Could light and sound cure Alzheimer’s? Exciting mice experiment suggests promising potential

Could light and sound cure Alzheimer’s? Exciting mice experiment suggests promising potential

Neuroscientists have removed Alzheimer’s causing plaques from mice brains using just light and sound. Is that really possible? We explain.

The MIT-led research found strobe lights and a low pitched buzzing sound can recreate brain waves that are lost in the disease, which then remove the clumps of harmful proteins that build up around the brain of mice with Alzheimer’s-like behaviours.

The non-invasive procedure saw the mice’s cognitive and memory function improve. After a week of treatment, the mice were far better able to navigate a maze by remembering landmarks.

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Mice and human brain waves work differently, and the process hasn’t been tested on humans yet, but the finding is promising as it could potentially be a way to treat Alzheimer’s in a cheap and drug-free way.

The research built on a previous study in which mice with Alzheimer’s were treated by flashing a light 40 times per second into their eyes, which treated their disease. In the current study, the sound was added and the results improved dramatically.

“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,” senior author Li-Huei Tsai said.

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Alzheimer’s disease disrupts how the brain’s neurons process and communicate information, and results in loss of function and cell death. In Alzheimer’s brains, high levels of protein clump together to form plaques that disrupt neuron function.

Previous studies have looked at the role sound can play in clearing the brain of tau and amyloid proteins that contribute to the disease. The nervous system’s microglia, which clean waste, are stimulated by the treatment.

When the mice listened to just one hour of the buzzing sound a day for a week, there was a decrease in amyloid build up, and increased stimulation to microglial cells.

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The latest study combining the two treatments saw a dramatic increase in plaque clearing across the brain, including the areas for cognitive functions like learning and memory.

 “These microglia just pile on top of one another around the plaques,” says Tsai.

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