New Alzheimer’s Research Using Brain Waves New Alzheimer’s Research Using Brain Waves

More than 5 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s and they’re not the only ones whose lives are affected by the disease. Their loved ones, the doctors that help them, and the hired caregivers and memory care workers that help take care of them all have lives that are heavily influenced by the effects of Alzheimer’s. And the incidence of the disease is only likely to grow in the years to come.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that when a disease is as common and disruptive as Alzheimer’s, it draws the interest of a lot of brilliant minds seeking to better understand it and find solutions that can help the people diagnosed with it.

As such, a lot of scientists are hard at work trying to understand the workings of Alzheimer’s disease better and find ways to fight back against its effects. One promising potential treatment that scientists have recently begun to explore is the use of brain waves.

How Brain Waves Relate to Alzheimer’s Symptoms

To understand how brain waves may play a role in treating Alzheimer’s, you first have to understand what brain waves even have to do with the disease.

Researchers have found that how quickly brain waves fire is tied to how well and actively our brain is working. When an average brain is awake but not working especially hard, the brain waves fire about 12 to 30 times a second. When the speed increases to 30 to 90 times a second, the faster brain waves are called gamma waves and are associated with the more difficult mental tasks we all tackle at different points throughout the day like using and making memories, paying attention to something, and learning.

Researchers have noticed that the gamma rays in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s are often disrupted, possibly by the plaques of protein that build up in the brain and are believed to cause the symptoms common to the disease.

The Research So Far

The scientists Hannah Jaccarino and Annabelle Singer have studied how restoring normal gamma rays in a type of mice that’s prone to Alzheimer’s affects their brains. Their research so far has shown that the gamma rays help to mobilize a type of cell called microglia that are sometimes called “janitorial cells” because they help clean the brain up. In this experiment they set up, these janitorial cells worked on ridding the brain of the harmful deposits of protein that are common in Alzheimer’s brains.

That’s potentially a big deal. It means gamma rays could possibly be used to remove (or at least reduce the instances of) the main physical component associated with the disease from the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

What The Research Means for Patients

At this point, the studies have only been done on mice. While that gives researchers some idea of what to expect with people, it by no means assures that a similar process would work the same on human brains.

Complicating things a bit, researchers have to figure out how to apply gamma rays to human brains. Li-Huei Tsai, an MIT researcher, believes that flashing lights at the right frequency might do the trick, although it’s a theory that hasn’t been fully tested yet.

For now, any treatment related to this research is a ways away from being available to human patients. Nonetheless, as all people who have watched a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s know, any progress is meaningful. If today’s research points us in the right direction for tomorrow’s treatment, it has the potential to significantly improve the lives of many.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

3 Comments

  1. Adam February 11, 2017 Reply

    Is there any cases of misdiagnosed Alzheimers patients and as a son of the patient what are my options to try and get a proper diagnosis.

  2. Linda Iken-Robertson February 13, 2017 Reply

    The way technology is advancing, we are seeing some big strides in healthcare. If we look just a number of years ago, there were no medicines or known cure for serious medical problems like Alzheimer or Dementia. But as science and technology continues to improve, I think patients with major health and medical issues may have many more options for treatment and cures in the future. This is another example of great progress.

  3. Jannette J. February 14, 2017 Reply

    Hi Kristen!
    This is such an informative article, especially for family caregivers of seniors with Alzheimer’s. I totally agree with Linda Iken-Robertson, technology is definitely advancing day-by-day. There are also some health conditions even in this time, which are not entirely treatable, but just like when there was a time where there was no cure to some conditions and now we have it due to the virtues of science and technology, there will be a time when we will have medicines and cure to every health condition. Families can consider home care options if they want their loved one have a sense of independence and enjoyment with family and memories around, and the professional caregivers also encourage seniors for mental activity by using science based therapeutics method for slowing the cognitive decline.

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