advances in Alzheimer's, gamma light, bacteria, and inflammation, by Rob Akins, edited by Jenna Breunig

Advances in Alzheimer’s: Gamma Light Therapy, Bacteria, and Inflammation

The last five years have seen promising research and applications in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Perhaps the most interesting discovery is that of Li-Huei Tsai, Ed Boyden, and other associates (2016). Their gamma light therapy for Alzheimer’s shows promising results.

Here are some of the new things researchers have learned.

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Gamma Light and Sound Therapy

Neurons, microglia, and gamma light therapy
Image from the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory

The team optically stimulated mice having Alzheimer’s amyloids using gamma light therapy. This activates certain cells in the brain called microglia. Once activated, the microglia take on a housekeeping role. They clean up wastes that cling to the neurons.

In her lab at MIT, Li-Huei Tsai studied both gamma frequency (40 hz) light and sound stimulation in mouse models. She found positive outcomes. It improves cognition and memory, stops neurodegeneration, and reduces the amyloid and tau protein buildups related to Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Tsai and other researchers at MIT and the Massachusetts General Hospital are now running human trials. They are using gamma light and sound entrainment. Test subjects are volunteers 55 or older who show signs of amyloid protein plaque buildup but who are still cognitively normal. This entrainment will happen daily for a year. Subjects will get regular checkups, including PET scans and other tests. They hope this entrainment will work on humans, not just mice.

Using Gamma Light and Sound

Also, the Alzheimer’s Association recently developed a gamma light and sound therapy app. This app works on iPhones, Apple computers, android computers, and some android phones. Users play games on the app while it stimulates them with a gamma 40 hz light and sound. The basic app is free. For a small fee, you can get an upgraded app with harder games. Many users and caretakers say it helps.

Sadly, around 99 percent of the drug approaches to fighting Alzheimer’s have failed. Obviously, the gamma light and sound entrainment is not a drug. But it still targets the same thing that drugs do: amyloid and tau proteins in the brain.

Researchers hope the outcome will be better than what drugs can offer. Time will tell.

The Role of Bacteria

Gamma light therapy isn’t the only new discovery. Lately, researchers found that bacteria may play a role in Alzheimer’s.

Several different teams of scientists have found Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. It uses two toxic enzymes to feed on human tissues. They found the enzymes in over 96 percent of the brain samples of deceased Alzheimer’s patients. Also, these samples came from the hippocampus. This is the brain area associated with memory.

It is interesting to note that the P. gingivalis is the chief bacterium involved in gum disease. The company Cortexyme is currently conducting human trials using a drug that targets this bacterium.

Trying to find the cause of a disease is a tricky and expensive process. This is especially true when dealing with human subjects. Cause and effect are hard to untangle. It’s important to keep this in mind when designing research.

Many researchers have focused on the amyloid and tau proteins. They think fighting them could prevent Alzheimer’s. But, it may be that these proteins are actually defenses against an attack by bacteria. If that is the case, they may not be the problem. Instead, they may build up to fight the real problem: the invasion of P. gingivalis bacteria.

We know many people with lots of amyloid and tau deposits live healthy lives with no dementia. Hopefully, we’ll have meaningful results this year.

Inflammation

How Alzheimer’s changes the brain

We see one common thread in Alzheimer’s, mental illness, and other diseases: inflammation. Over the last decade, researchers have studied inflammation related to different diseases and illnesses. It involves a vast communication network in the immune system and brain. This has shifted the focus of the medical profession.

We’ve noted higher rates of mental illnesses (like anxiety and depression) in people with physical illnesses. In the past, we believed this was an emotional response to the illness. But maybe it isn’t. It could be due to inflammatory signals to the brain that activate immune cells there.

One good book about this perspective change is The Angel and the Assassin by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. That’s not the only one. Edward Bullmore’s book The Inflamed Mind goes deeper into inflammation. It describes the role of inflammation and our immune system. Brain inflammation could cause many of our mental conditions.

Fighting Inflammation

the angel and the assassin, the tiny brain cell that changed the course of medicine

So, how do we control inflammation? While we might not be able to stop it, we can do things to reduce it. Of course, pain meds can help. But there are more techniques. It looks like any reduction is a plus for our body, mind, and perhaps our longevity.

Many methods of pain control aren’t invasive. They include meditation, virtual reality, yoga, neurofeedback, and various types of light, sound, and touch entrainment.

A few are more involved. They include pain-fighting electric patches, acupuncture, massage, and different supplements.

How much can gamma light therapy fight inflammation? It’s not clear yet. Thus, it’s good to try more than one strategy.

Conclusion

In summary, we know inflammation plays a key role in diseases and pain. Many disabled people face chronic pain. Pain and inflammation go hand in hand.

Also, we know gamma light therapy at 40 hz activates the microglia in the brain. These microglia are part of the immune system. They fight inflammation by absorbing the byproducts of the inflammatory response in the brain.

Experts think many of these microglia become inactive with age. But they can be activated again with gamma frequency light or sound. Also, many of the migroglia are in the hippocampus. This part of the brain is responsible for memory formation, especially short-term memory.

Thus, all of us can likely benefit from this type of therapy. It is non-invasive and many products are cheap. They can be used as background lights, providing therapeutic benefits all the time you are exposed.

4 thoughts on “Advances in Alzheimer’s: Gamma Light Therapy, Bacteria, and Inflammation”

  1. It’s exciting to read of the latest advances in New research to understand Alzheimer’s disease. I did download the app and like it. Bravo to its creators! I’m thinking about buying a subscription. I’m glad the money goes toward more Alzheimer’s research . My mother was in a nursing home by the time she was 54 years old. She lived there for 11.5 years. It broke my father’s and all of our family’s hearts.

    1. Hi Mary:

      It is a nice app and I have used it personally. I purchased the subscription since it has more difficult games that I find more challenging. I hope you purchase and use it. Rob

  2. My husband has severe dementia. Sometimes he remembers my name, married 55 years. He can still count, say abc’s. He can remember songs and sing them through. Is there a trial you can put him in. Please I can’t handle seeing him this way.

    1. Hi Martha:

      You are obviously a caring spouse. There are a number of organizations that can put you in touch with some of the ongoing trials countrywide. I know they have been recruiting in our area at Keystone which is near the King of Prussia in Pennsylvania. Of course, that study has a number of centers nationwide where individuals are going. Once a person has gone into severe dementia, it limits your options considerably. Some of the more established neurofeedback centers work with dementia patients with some success in improvement of function but no cures. Anecdotal stories suggest improvement with the use of the gamma light and sound therapy but for severe dementia it is likely to be minor. I am certain the Alzheimer’s Association would be able to help you and can probably provide more useful information than me. Playing the songs you both enjoyed when younger is positive therapy for you and him.

      Cogentica is an evolving company and just getting started. We anticipate being more a disability advocacy company than actually working with people. I do believe you would benefit from joining a support group of individuals who are going through the same issues you are experiencing. You would be able to relate to these individuals since you share a lot in common. These support groups come in all forms, live in-person, internet, phone, so I hope you consider that option. You don’t want to deal with this issue alone; it is not good for you and your health nor for your husband who undoubtedly would want you to remember the better days and to take care of yourself. God bless you and your husband! Rob Akins

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