Taking a look at Christmas lights may be better for your health than you think. Professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) now believe exposing people to bright LED lights might be able to halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
MIT researchers put group of mice in front of a bright light display and measured their brain activity over the course of a week. They found that the mice watching the pretty flickering lights experienced a great reduction in the "sticky" proteins that causes Alzheimer's. The specific brainwave pattern observed in the mice was called a gamma pattern.
Professor Li-Huei Tsai, the director of the MIT Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, told reporters that the potential of this research was "enormous" for dementia treatment. Since anyone can look at a display of LED lights, this is a non-invasive treatment option accessible to everyone.
Unfortunately, there have been no tests using this technology on humans as of yet. Professor Li-Huei Tsai cautions that just because it worked well for mice doesn't necessarily mean it will work as well for humans.
Most scientists involved in Alzheimer's research right now are looking for possible ways to break up the sticky amyloid beta protein clumps that form in a patient's brain. Alzheimer's patients have brains that cannot effectively break up these proteins as a normal brain could.
In other studies, Professor Tsai noted that gamma brainwaves were diminished or non-existent in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Of course, the mice's brains were enhanced by gamma waves after watching the LED light display. Gamma brainwaves are often linked with higher states of attention and concentration.
This research was published in the December 2016 issue of Nature magazine. In this study, it shows how the professors induced Alzheimer's into the mice and then exposed them to the LED display for one hour every day. This study, as noted above, took place over the course of one week. When the researchers looked into the parts of these mice's brains that dealt with visual stimuli, they found that the amyloid beta protein had fallen significantly.
Researchers concluded that the gamma waves brought up by the LED lights were able to help the brain clean out amyloid beta proteins. They also found these gamma waves were able to reduce the total amount of the proteins produced.
To move forward with this research, MIT researchers have set up Cognito Therapeutics. This company will take a look at how LED lighting can be used to prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Cognito Therapeutics is located in the village of Newton Centre, Massachusetts.
Currently, one in nine adults in the USA over 65 have Alzheimer's disease , and about 850,000 people in the U.K. have the disease. Worldwide, there are 46.8 million people how have some form of dementia.