Study finds light and sound therapy could help fight Alzheimer's disease

Researcher Annabelle Singer and collaborators have been working on a study for the past year investigating the use of flickering lights and sound to treat Alzheimer's disease. Past studies used mouse models of Alzheimer's, and the researchers say they've seen dramatic results. Recently, the team gathered the first human feasibility study results using the flicker treatment, and those results are promising.

Singer says the team looked at safety, tolerance, and adherence with different biological outcomes and found the results were better than expected. Singer shared the feasibility study results back in October and is working on a new paper outlining the findings for another publication. The so-called flicker treatment stimulates gamma waves manipulating neural activity and recruiting the immune system inside the brain to clear pathogens.

The team says the treatment shows success in fighting a progressive disease that has no cure. Previous research has shown that sensory areas inside the human brain will entrain to flickering stimuli for seconds to hours. However, the new study was the first time Singer and colleagues were able to test gamma sensory stimulation over an extended period. The study included ten patients with Alzheimer's-associated mild cognitive impairment.

The treatment required the study participants to wear an experiment visor with headphones exposing one group to light and sound at 40 hertz for an hour a day over eight weeks. Another group of participants wore the same headset and headphones for four weeks. Researchers were able to tune the visor and headphones to deliver a level of light and sound that was tolerable to the user and successfully provoked the underlying brain response required.

Singer says the team recorded widespread entrainment, meaning brain activity in the form of gamma waves synchronized to the external stimulation. Gamma waves are associated with high-level cognitive functions such as perception and memory. The team's human feasibility study showed that the gamma flicker treatment was safe and tolerable, and patients followed the full treatment schedule.