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Alzheimer’s, gamma wave sensory stimulation can remove amyloid protein

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Alzheimer’s, gamma wave sensory stimulation can remove amyloid protein

by Cristina Marrone

In animal models, stimulating brain gamma waves with lights and sounds at a frequency of 40 Hz helps clear amyloid from the brain via the glymphatic system

Sensory stimulation, via visual effects generated with light and sound at the brain rhythm frequency range of 40 Hz, reduced the progression of Alzheimer’s disease removing the amyloid protein. The confirmation comes from a new study (for now on mice) conducted by researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, published in Nature. Scientists, using a mouse model affected by the disease, have discovered a key mechanism that could help slow down Alzheimer’s: the elimination of amyloid proteins, a hallmark of the disease, through the brain’s glymphatic system, a parallel “hydraulic” network to the blood vessels of the brain discovered less than ten years ago.

Below gamma a 40 Hz

Why does gamma wave brain stimulation have to be at 40 Hz? «This frequency is a gamma brain wave rhythm associated with memory» specifies Giacomo Koch, full professor of Neurophysiology at the University of Ferrara and director of the Non-invasive Brain Stimulation Laboratory at the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome. «In Alzheimer’s disease, high-frequency gamma waves, fundamental for the genesis and consolidation of memory and most involved in cognitive tasks, are disrupted and diminished». For this reason, the decline in gamma waves in a patient is considered a biomarker for predicting disease progression.

Intermittent light and acoustic stimuli

The model described by MIT scientists in Nature exploits the 40 Hz oscillations of light stimuli and acoustic. In concrete terms, intermittent sounds and flashing lights at 40 Hz stimulate the rhythms of gamma waves and therefore train the neurons to these rhythms. “In this way – explains Professor Koch – they promote brain efficiency and counteract neurodegenerative mechanisms which instead lead to a depletion of synaptic activity and then to the degeneration of neurons.” In animals it has been demonstrated that this mechanism reduces the deposition of amyloid and tau proteins: there is therefore a link between the increase in gamma activity and the fight against the disease. After the studies on mice, clinical trials on humans were announced, but for now there is no scientific evidence that the described mechanism actually leads to a consistent clinical effect. If its effectiveness were demonstrated, it would be possible to build a device that produces sound and visual stimulation at 40 Hz that can also be used at home to combat Alzheimer’s disease. For now, however, the prospect still appears rather distant.

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The activity of the glymphatic system

In the work published in Nature he focused in particular on the glymphatic system, which functions as a purifier and supports the lymphatic system by filtering toxic substances in the brain. The fact that the glymphatic system can be modified with non-invasive brain stimulation methods is potentially interesting. MIT researchers have actually found these mechanisms in an animal model, highlighting that gamma wave stimulation modifies the activity of the glymphatic system, reducing amyloid levels in mice with Alzheimer’s.

The difference with Cerebral Magnetic Stimulation

Another brain stimulation mechanism (in this case already tested and used on humans) is personalized Transcanic Magnetic Stimulation. Researchers from the Santa Lucia Foundation have already published in scientific journals such as Brain, NeuroImage and Annals of Neurology, works that combine two techniques: transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroencephalogram (EEG). Through these techniques it is possible to “stimulate” in a non-invasive way the specific brain areas involved in the disease and record their physiological “response” through the EEG. Scientists thus first discovered that the brains of Alzheimer’s patients are characterized by a low level of EEG oscillations in the gamma band (40 Hz). Specifically, patients who had a higher level of gamma activity were those who had less deterioration in cognition and functional abilities after 6 months. Subsequent work measured the concrete effect of the therapy. «We saw that after six months of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation with personalized intensity the cognitive decline was reduced by 80% – concludes the neurophysiologist – with a very substantial clinical impact and the slowing down of the disease. As soon as patients respond to therapy they are more attentive, more present, more alert and after a year of therapy they maintain the same autonomy they had at the onset of the disease.” Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, despite being a non-invasive and painless technique, is still a demanding therapy since the patient must go to hospital for the sessions. However, the data from years of work are very comforting on the effectiveness of the therapy.

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February 28, 2024


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