Medical

How a strange flickering light therapy may help battle Alzheimer’s

How a strange flickering light...
New research has revealed a 40 Hz flickering light can alter the expression of genes in neurons and microglia
New research has revealed a 40 Hz flickering light can alter the expression of genes in neurons and microglia
View 2 Images
At left is the brain of a mouse genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer’s disease. At right, the brain of a mouse programmed to develop the disease, but treated with noninvasive visual stimulation, shows much less neurodegeneration
1/2
At left is the brain of a mouse genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer’s disease. At right, the brain of a mouse programmed to develop the disease, but treated with noninvasive visual stimulation, shows much less neurodegeneration
New research has revealed a 40 Hz flickering light can alter the expression of genes in neurons and microglia
2/2
New research has revealed a 40 Hz flickering light can alter the expression of genes in neurons and microglia

Since2016, a team of MIT neuroscientists has been exploring the strangehypothesis that external exposure to a light flickering at 40Hz can improve cognitive function and reverse the neurodegenerationassociated with Alzheimer's disease. A new study has now homed in onexactly how, on a cellular level, this light treatment could beworking.

Li-Huei Tsai and colleagues at MIT's Picower Institute forLearning and Memory first discovered in 2016 that amyloid and tauproteins seemed to be eliminated from mouse brains following exposureto a flickering light. Further work revealed adding a 40 Hz auditorytone to the process improved the efficacy of this treatment, however,it was not known exactly how this external stimuli was actuallyinfluencing the brain.

The new study set out to uncover exactly how a flickering lightcould stifle cognitive decline, using two unique mouse modelsengineered to overproduced the toxic proteins that contribute toneurodegeneration. The animals were exposed to light flickering at 40 Hzfor one hour every day for between three and six weeks.

Incredibly, the mice engineered to overproduce tau proteinsdisplayed no neuronal degeneration after three weeks of treatmentcompared to a control group that displayed nearly 20 percent totalneuronal loss. The other mouse model, engineered to produce aneurodegenerative protein called p25, displayed no neurodegenerationwhatsoever during the entire six weeks of treatment.

"I have been working with p25 protein for over 20 years, and Iknow this is a very neurotoxic protein," explains Tsai. "We foundthat the p25 transgene expression levels are exactly the same intreated and untreated mice, but there is no neurodegeneration in thetreated mice. I haven't seen anything like that. It's veryshocking."

At left is the brain of a mouse genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer’s disease. At right, the brain of a mouse programmed to develop the disease, but treated with noninvasive visual stimulation, shows much less neurodegeneration
At left is the brain of a mouse genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer’s disease. At right, the brain of a mouse programmed to develop the disease, but treated with noninvasive visual stimulation, shows much less neurodegeneration

The researchers then zoomed in on the light-treated animal'sneurons and microglia to study whether the treatment induced anyunusual changes in gene expression. The light-treated mice revealedincreased neuronal expression of genes associated with synapticfunction and DNA repair. In microglia, the brain's immune cells,there was a decrease in genes associated with inflammation.

All of this suggests that the flickering light treatment seems toinduce brain activity that both enhances the ability of microglia tofight off inflammation and enables neurons to better protect andrepair against damaging toxic proteins. Of course, these hypotheses stillonly offer a partial answer to the question of how this strangetreatment is working.

The researchers now know what may be occurring in the brain tocause these beneficial results but, still, no one knows exactly how a40 Hz flickering light can trigger these specific changes to gene expression deep in the brain. Further work in animal models isunderway to better understand this unusual mechanism, while human trialstesting the sound and light treatment in Alzheimer's patients havealready begun.

The new study was published in the journal Neuron.

Source: MIT

9 comments
guzmanchinky
I know if I ever get a disease I'll come to NewAtlas and google it's name to see the latest. Amazing stuff...
Expanded Viewpoint
This pretty much falls in line with Rife's work and others too. Watch some of the videos on YT regarding using energy to heal a body or kill off pathogens. Energy in the form of light and sound can have some VERY dramatic results. Frequencies can both heal and kill, it just depends upon how they are used in each situation. Randy
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Good excuse to buy a chopper wheel!
Brooke
The article is behind a pay wall, so I was not able to find out why 40 Hz or any other details on wave shapes or details on the audio. So applying this to humans is far in the future.
Paul Muad'Dib
Could software be made that will turn my computer monitor into a treatment device?
RobertEhresman
In North America we live with 60 Hz flickering lights. Europeans with 50 Hz. Hum too in many different audio systems. You'd think this would lead to some sort of epidemiological differential between regions. Of course we are talking about mice in this instance.... So... how about Kickstarter for LED reading lights that can be made to flicker at precise but arbitrary range of frequencies that might later be found to be beneficial for demented humans?
aksdad
The next marketing strategy in consumer electronics: TV and monitor vendors will add a "Alzheimer's Resistance" (AR) mode to their sets to refresh at a noticeably flickering 40 Hz. An hour a day keeps dementia away...
Marco McClean
Re: Paul. That's something like what I was thinking. Just somehow make teevee shows that draw lots of old people flicker at 40Hz instead of 30/60. Matlock, JAG, /Walker, Texas Ranger/, Fox News, Antiques Roadshow, Dancing With The Stars, etc., and train them to turn all the other lights off before they sit in the barcalounger for the evening.
Ralf Biernacki
I just had an unpleasant thought. If a 40Hz flicker has this profound an influence on brain biochemistry, perhaps other frequencies do as well---except, they may have a <i>detrimental</i> effect. It could just be that the chosen frequency of our household electricity---60Hz, or 50Hz---is what has been giving us Alzheimer's in the first place. Gives me a chill just to consider this, realizing how omnipresent these flickers are, and how prohibitively difficult they would be to eradicate: every generator at every power plant would need to be replaced more or less simultaneously, as well as half or so of our household appliances.