Live 1057

Free Internet Radio Stations
GENUS: Research on sensory stimulation to combat Alzheimer’s disease

GENUS: Research on sensory stimulation to combat Alzheimer’s disease


Alzheimer’s disease is a tragedy for tens of millions of people and families worldwide. So far there are no useful treatment options, but what if there was a way to galvanize a response within the brain to fight back against Alzheimer’s disease. In her research at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and Aging Brain Initiative, Professor Li-Huei Tsai has learned that brain activity synchronized at the gamma frequency of 40 pulses a second, or Hertz, appears crucial for maintaining the brain’s defenses against Alzheimer’s disease pathology. In two new studies in Cell and Neuron, by exposing mice to sound and light at this crucial 40 Hertz frequency, Tsai lab scientists led by graduate student Anthony Martorell and Picower fellow Chinnakkaruppan Adaikkan enhanced the power of gamma rhythms in the brain. This produced marked reductions in the tau and amyloid beta protein build ups that are key pathological features of Alzheimer’s. This sensory stimulation significantly improved the memory of mice engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease compared to unstimulated controls. These new studies replicate the results that Tsai and colleagues first published using light stimulation in 2016 and take them much further. In fact when they exposed mice to several weeks of 40 Hertz light or just a week of light and sound together, they saw some especially profound benefits reducing amyloid beta protein throughout the cortex. MIT calls this non-invasive potential therapy GENUS for gamma entrainment using sensory stimuli. Work has begun to see if it will help in humans, but the new data show the effects to be widespread across several different mouse models of the disease. One of the main ways that GENUS appears to work is by stimulating key helper cells in the brain to respond to the Alzheimer’s pathology. After GENUS treatment, immune cells called microglia change their shape and increase their absorption of amyloid beta protein. They changed their gene expression to become less inflammatory. With GENUS light and sound together the scientists could see more microglia literally surrounding plaques in the brain than in unstimulated control mice. Meanwhile GENUS sound motivated a complex sequence in which they hypothesize that possibly astrocytes and other cells helped to open up blood vessels and link amyloid with another protein that brought the amyloid to the vessels. Importantly the benefits were evident in many different parts of the brain. In the new studies with longer-term light or with sound it also propagated to the hippocampus, a key region for learning and memory. With longer term light or with light and sound together, the beneficial effects also occurred in the prefrontal cortex where we do our highest level of reasoning. Longer-term light an hour a day for 3 to 6 weeks instead of for just one week reduced the rate of neuron loss and slowed the expansion of ventricles, or open spaces in the brain. It also significantly changed gene expression of neurons and microglia possibly explaining why they change their response to the disease. A crucial question for any proposed Alzheimer’s treatment is does it improve memory? In these new studies GENUS did appear to improve mouse memory in multiple standard tests including recognizing whether objects were new or familiar, whether they were in a new or prior location, and how to escape an environment. Now mice are not people even if they do closely model the pathology and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease so work is ongoing at MIT to test GENUS for human use. Meanwhile lab research continues. The lab’s goal is to help people by developing a device or system that will use the senses to empower their brain cells to fight back against Alzheimer’s disease. [Music]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *