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Scientists looking for a way to cure Alzheimer's found a promising breakthrough: sound and light therapy.
“Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for loss of memory and other cognitive abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease represents 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases ”. - alz.org
Here are some basic statistics and facts about Alzheimer's from alz.org:
-Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. 5.8 million Americans live with Alzheimer's.
-By 2050, that number is estimated to be 14 million. Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's.
-Since 2000, deaths from the disease have increased by 89% In 2017, approximately 5.5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer's (two-thirds were women)
-Last year, Alzheimer's cost the nation $ 290 billion. By 2050, this number could grow to $ 1.1 trillion
WHAT IS ALZHEIMER?
A type of dementia that constitutes 60-80% of diagnosed cases, Alzheimer's is a type of disease that involves memory loss and other impaired cognitive functions. Most people with Alzheimer's are over 65; however, many young people have the disease.
Alzheimer's progresses through variable stages that gradually get worse. Symptoms are subtle at first, like having trouble keeping up with bills or misplacing keys. In the later stages, the patient becomes confused and has difficulty holding conversations. The average Alzheimer's patient lives 6 to 8 years after diagnosis.
While there is no current cure for Alzheimer's, researchers continue to study it.
TEN PRIMARY SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER
1 - LOSS OF MEMORY
Memory loss is the best-known and easiest-to-detect symptom of Alzheimer's. However, there are other lesser-known symptoms to be aware of, including:
2 - PROBLEMS TO SOLVE DIFFICULTIES
This challenge could include having trouble following prescriptions or keeping up with bills.
3 - LOW ABILITY TO COMPLETE DAILY CUTS
This hardship can consist of problems at one's job, at home, or during tasks like grocery shopping.
4 - LOSING TRACK OF TIME OR PLACE
Many people with Alzheimer's forget where they are or how they got there. You may also have difficulty distinguishing between past, present, and future.
5 - VISION PROBLEMS
New or worsening vision problems could be a sign of Alzheimer's. If the patient shows this symptom, they should probably no longer be allowed to drive as this puts them and others at risk.
6 - DIFFICULTY TRANSPORTING CONVERSATIONS OR WRITING
People with Alzheimer's have a hard time holding conversations because it takes them longer to find the right words to say. They can stop mid-sentence to gather their thoughts. Also, writing activities like making shopping lists will be more difficult.
7 - LOSS OF ITEMS
Alzheimer's patients may misplace or hide items on purpose, as they suspect that others will steal from them. Losing track of keys, glasses, and other essentials becomes more common as the disease progresses.
8 - LOW THE ABILITY TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES
At first, you might just forget how to put on your shirt or pants. However, this can escalate in later stages of not being able to control body functions, as well as forgetting to take baths or showers. Patients in the later stages generally require home care, so their basic needs are met.
9 - INSULATION
A person with Alzheimer's often withdraws from social situations due to so many changes that occur internally. They generally do not recognize themselves and find it more difficult to relate to others.
10 - CHANGES IN MOOD AND PERSONALITY
Personality changes and mood swings can occur in almost anyone. However, people with Alzheimer's can become confused, suspicious, angry, fearful, or depressed quite quickly and for seemingly no reason. Changes in routine or unexpected events can make these moods worse.
Alzheimer's is complex and devastating for a patient and their family, so early diagnosis and experimentation with treatments are key to helping a person live a more normal life.
Now that you know the typical symptoms of Alzheimer's, let's review an incredible possible cure that scientists found.
HOW SOUND AND LIGHT THERAPY COULD HEAL ALZHEIMER:
In an experiment, MIT researchers have found that using strobes and low-pitched buzzing, they can recreate pre-diagnosis brain waves, which remove plaque and improve cognitive function.
This result means that light and sound help activate your brain waves to fight disease. This technique has yet to be tested in humans, so it cannot be definitively said whether it will help cure Alzheimer's. However, if it can be replicated in humans, this will go a long way in the fight to cure Alzheimer's. Plus, it provides a safe and drug-free option without the side effects.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Building on an earlier study where the researchers threw light 40 times per second into the eyes of engineered mice, the researchers added sound to the new experiment using a similar frequency and found that the results improved dramatically.
"When we combine visual and auditory stimulation for a week, we see the compromise of the prefrontal cortex and a very dramatic reduction in amyloid," says Li-Huei Tsai, one of the researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.
Other studies have been done to investigate how to cleanse the brain of the groups of tau and amyloid proteins that play an important role in disease. Previous studies found that ultrasound bursts cause blood vessels to breach the blood-brain barrier, allowing antibodies to enter the brain, while also encouraging specialized cells called microglia to gobble up amyloid proteins.
Several years ago, Tsai discovered that using flashes of light about 40 times per second had similar benefits in mice engineered to accumulate amyloid in nerve cells in their brains, which can cause Alzheimer's-like effects.
THE RESULTS AMAZED THE INVESTIGATION TEAM
"The result was so mind-blowing and so robust that the idea took a while to be assimilated, but we knew we had to find a way to test the same in humans," Tsai told Helen Thomson in Nature at the time.
However, this effect only impacted the visual parts of the brain, missing key areas that govern memory formation and retrieval.
While the scientists were skeptical of the method at first, the results showed how the oscillations could help break down the harmful proteins associated with Alzheimer's. One of these oscillations is called the gamma frequency, which moves through the brain at 30 to 90 waves per second. These waves are most active when we pay close attention and try to formulate ideas about our surroundings. Tsai's earlier study found that these gamma waves are inhibited in people with Alzheimer's, and this may play an important role in the disease.
So both light and sound played a crucial role in helping the brain create more gamma waves. The potential to cure Alzheimer's stems from this principle.
In the study, Tsai used a frequency of just 40 Hertz, which is barely high enough for humans to hear. This is in stark contrast to the sharp frequency of ultrasound.
THE FINDINGS AND HOW THEY COULD HELP HEAL ALZHEIMER
Exposing mice to just one hour of this frequency every day for a week led to a significant decrease in amyloid accumulation in the auditory regions, while stimulating microglial cells and blood vessels.
“What we have shown here is that we can use different sensory modalities to induce gamma oscillations in the brain. And secondly, this gamma-induced by auditory stimulation can reduce amyloid and Tau pathology not only in the sensory cortex but also in the hippocampus ”, says Tsai.
Additionally, the experiment helped clear the nearby hippocampus, which is highly responsible for memory and cognitive abilities. In the study, mice showed improvements in both brain chemistry and performance on a variety of cognitive tasks. Adding light therapy from previous research also helped remove plaques in several areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex.
"These microglia just pile up on top of each other around the plates," says Tsai.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW LIGHT AND SOUND CAN HEAL ALZHEIMER’S
Although this is not set in stone as a way to cure people with Alzheimer's, it can certainly be a step in the right direction. Learning how light and specific frequencies can improve disease and remove plaques in the brain could mark a breakthrough in treating a variety of neurological disorders. Of course, scientists will have to keep working on how to alter the experiment to make it safe for humans; however, preliminary safety tests seem to indicate that it is safe for humans with Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's disease is a life-altering disease that, according to research, will become more prevalent in the coming years. Ways to help prevent Alzheimer's include proper nutrition and exercise, engaging in brain-stimulating activities and exercises, avoiding smoking or drinking large amounts of alcohol, and staying in close contact with friends and family. This condition is devastating, but making sure you keep your brain and body healthy can reduce symptoms or even prevent disease. Until then, we are still hoping that science will find a way to cure Alzheimer's, once and for all!