Could New Light Therapy Help People With Alzheimer’s Disease?
Newswise – Alzheimer’s disease is a mind-stealing brain disorder that affects nearly 6.2 million older Americans. Despite decades of research into high-tech drugs, diets, and crossword puzzles, scientists have yet to find a highly effective treatment for patients. Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai a five-year grant to try something new: light. With this award, researchers will test whether patient exposure to a combination of light therapies will slow the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. One therapy will use light pulses designed to enhance cognition-boosting electrical brain waves, while the other aims to help patients sleep better. For its first year, the project will receive $ 792,000.
“Light can be a powerful but often overlooked factor in health,” said Mariana Figueiro, PhD, director of the Light Health Research Center (LHRC) and professor of population health science and policy at Icahn Mount Sinai and recipient of the the NIH-funded grant. National Institute of Aging. “We hope to harness the power of light to alleviate the suffering that millions of Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones experience every day. “
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are neurodegenerative disorders that primarily damage the memory centers of the brain, the temporal lobe and the hippocampus. Symptoms usually appear in people over 65. These include problems with thinking and memory, mood swings, and fits of confusion. As the disease progresses, the symptoms worsen to such an extent that a patient requires full-time care. Recently, several lines of research from the laboratory of Dr Figueiro and others have highlighted the idea that light can be an effective tool in combating these problems.
In this project, the LHRC team plans to test whether pulses of light flashing at a frequency of 40 times per second, or 40 Hz, can not only increase ‘gamma’ waves of electrical activity in patients’ brains, but also thwart some of the problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The team will also examine whether combining the 40Hz flashes with light therapy designed to reset a patient’s sleep-wake cycle can also help.
Dr Figueiro is part of the Mount Sinai team of researchers who are focused on understanding in detail how light controls our health. For example, the team has spent years developing light therapies to help nurses overcome fatigue and other negative effects of working nights in low light environments.
“One of the challenges of modern times is that we have deprived ourselves of the daily doses of natural light we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Mark S. Rea, PhD, associate director of LHRC.
Initially, the study will involve dozens of Mount Sinai patients who are diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, a disorder that often precedes Alzheimer’s disease. The light pulses will be delivered by a bespoke device, such as a box or glasses, developed at the LHRC. The results will be compared with those obtained in control subjects of the same age.
Gamma brain wave activity is associated with learning and memory. Studies in humans have suggested that the activity is reduced in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, studies in mice genetically engineered to mimic aspects of the disease have shown that the 40Hz flashing light improves gamma activity while reducing neural cell death and the buildup of beta-amyloid, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
To test the role that sleep-wake cycles can have in this process, the team will expose patients to high daily doses of daylight designed to help patients sleep better.
About 40 percent of Alzheimer’s disease patients experience sleep-related problems, including restlessness and daytime sleepiness. Studies that have tested light therapies to treat these symptoms have so far produced mixed results.
For this study, the light from the sleep-wake cycle will be delivered either by the same bespoke device used for the flashing light or by another, such as a table or a lamp, which will allow well-defined periods of constant daily exposure. Its effectiveness in countering sleep and cognitive disorders associated with Alzheimer’s disease will be tested alone and in combination with the 40 Hz pulses.
“Our sleep-wake cycles play a vital role in brain health,” said Dr. Figueiro. “By using a rigorous, two-pronged approach to light therapy, it is possible that we can push the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease to a healthier state. “
This study, entitled “The Use of Rhythmic Light Therapy to Entrain Gamma Oscillations and the Circadian System in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD)” will be funded by the National Institutes of Health (AG072762).
About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City’s largest academic medical system, comprising eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and an extensive network of outpatient practices throughout the greater New York City area. Mount Sinai is an unrivaled national and international source of education, translational research and discovery, and collaborative clinical leadership ensuring that we provide the highest quality care, from prevention to treatment of the most serious human diseases and diseases. more complex. The healthcare system includes more than 7,200 physicians and has a strong and ever-expanding network of multispecialty services, including more than 400 outpatient practice locations in the five boroughs of New York, Westchester and Long Island. Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked 14th on US News and World Reports “Honor Roll” of the top 20 hospitals in the country and the Icahn medical school as one of the top 20 medical schools in the country. Mount Sinai Health System hospitals are consistently ranked regionally by specialty and our physicians in the top 1% of all physicians nationwide by American News and World Report.