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Flickering Lights and Clicking Sounds: The Next Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease and Chemotherapy Induced “Brain Fog”?

Our circulatory system has a supplemental system to balance fluids and filter pathogens called the lymphatic system. The brain has a similar adjunct system called the glymphatic system. This system is made up of cells called astrocytes.


Diagram of an astrocyte cell

 

The astrocytes provide nutrition to nerve cells. They also help maintain electrolyte balance and assist in repairing damage within the brain and spinal cord. Astrocytes help with communication and energy within the brain and with the removal of waste products.

 

Research at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found that exposing a the brain to a certain rhythm of light and sound increases a process that helps clear a protein responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. Light and sound clicking at the brain rhythm that produces gamma waves, which is 40 hertz (Hz), can reduce Alzheimer’s disease progression. This has now been demonstrated in mice as well as human volunteers. The study has finished phase 2 trials and scientists hope begin phase 3 this year.



This same treatment has shown positive results for the memory impairment and lack of focus that many chemotherapy patients experience.

Chemotherapy can cause inflammation in the brain and damage to the nerves that help different parts of the brain communicate with each other. It can also damage the myelin, the fatty protective coating on nerves.


3D image of nerve fibers

From Unsplash in collaboration with Getty Images


In mice, the 40 hertz cycles of light and sound treatments have successfully reduced DNA damage, reduced inflammation, and increased the number of cells that protect nerve fibers.



Thus far, scientists have shown these improvements in mice who were given the drugs methotrexate and cisplatin. Further research is warranted.

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