How Light and Sound May Be Alzheimer’s Solutions
Here at Kensington Place, we have our finger on the pulse of the latest memory care treatments, such as using virtual reality to detect Alzheimer’s. But now science has got one better: using sound and light to clear Alzheimer’s plaque!
In clinical trials with Alzheimer’s afflicted mice, researchers at MIT found that strobe lights and a low-pitched “buzz” can actually recreate brain waves lost to Alzheimer’s — and this in turn removes the plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s, thereby improving cognitive function.
While scientists don’t yet know whether it’s possible to re-engineer human brains in this way, the mice research suggests some intriguing possibilities.
Sensory Stimulation and Brain Function
“When we combine visual and auditory stimulation for a week, we see the engagement of the prefrontal cortex and a very dramatic reduction of amyloid,” reports Li-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and the senior author of the breakthrough study.
This sound and light stimulation works because the brain’s neurons generate electrical signals that form brain wave patterns in various frequency ranges. Previous studies found that Alzheimer’s patients have impairments of their gamma-frequency oscillations, which range from 25 to 80 hertz (cycles per second) and are believed to contribute to brain functions such as attention, perception, and memory.
Using bursts of ultrasound to make the blood vessels “leaky” enough to allow powerful treatments to penetrate the brain, the MIT researchers began blasting light flickering at the frequency necessary to repair gamma waves in Alzheimer’s afflicted mice.
Next, they added a much lower sound frequency, a droning 40 hertz. Exposing the mouse subjects to this buzzing sound for just one hour a week produced a dramatic drop in amyloid plaque build-up, while also stimulating the hippocampus, an important component of memory.
Although there are critical distinctions between mouse brains and those of humans, “there is reason to be optimistic that these methods can provide useful interventions for humans,” say outside experts. This type of research has “the potential for huge clinical impact in Alzheimer’s disease and others involving brain inflammation.”
Genetic Mutation Might Hold A Crucial Key
Although Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not hereditary per se, lifestyle and behavior do play a role in affecting someone’s susceptibility to cognitive decline.
However, a woman whose genetic profile predisposed her to Alzheimer’s — yet who did not develop the disease in her 50s, as predicted — offers rare insight that could hold a key to unlocking the causes, and suggest possible cures.
The woman, like thousands of her relatives going back generations, carries a rare genetic mutation that cause memory loss and cognitive problems beginning in their 40s, leading to rapid deterioration and death, typically by age 60. In this case, however, the woman’s brain contained a second mutation that protected her from dementia — even though her brain showed all the hallmarks of the disease.
Scientists say if they can replicate the protective mutation found in her brain, they can develop a gene therapy for people who are beginning to experience early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. While the cure is some years down the road, this is a promising possibility.
The Role of Diet in Preserving Memory
Finally, it’s crucial to remember how important excellent nutrition is to senior cognitive health. Poor food choices, or a decline in someone’s ability to shop for and prepare healthful meals, can even induce memory loss.
While diet alone will not reverse memory loss that is due to dementia, a change from a poor diet to one that nourishes the brain can have a significant effect on memory if the memory loss is due to a lack of necessary nutrients.
In one instance, a woman in her 80s was able to restore much of her diminished cognitive functioning by eating memory-boosting foods, exercising, becoming more socially engaged, and doing brain-enhancing activities such as jigsaw puzzles and crosswords. In a few months, her memory began improving.
It’s also important to remember that there are more than 50 “dementia mimics” in addition to poor diet. These include:
- Vitamin B12 deficiency (absorption declines with age, which is why many elderly people may benefit from B12 injections)
- Urinary tract infection
- Depression or anxiety
- Dehydration (common in older people because a sense of thirst decreases with age, so they may neglect to drink enough water)
- Medication interactions
- Loneliness and isolation, which can create emotional stress.
The Kensington’s Role in Memory Care
Here at Kensington Place, memory care is our specialty. We designed Kensington Place Redwood City to be a different kind of memory care community: one that looks and feels like home, where residents wake up happy and thriving, and families feel welcome to visit us any time, knowing their loved one is being cared for with love, laughter, companionship and exceptional professional support every day.
Our memory care environment is unsurpassed, and includes the essential components described above: fine dining that caters to our residents’ preferences while ensuring they receive the highest level of nutritional support. Chef Tony began cooking for seniors as a teenager, and knows what they like and what they need nutritionally to be well and stay well, with optimal memory support. He adapts recipes to accommodate special dietary requirements, without compromising taste, texture, and aroma.
“Kensington Place made the last year of my dad’s life as comfortable and enriching as it could possibly be. The staff was incredibly nurturing and loving. Everyone I met went above and beyond to help him have the best quality of life. For example, When my dad’s appetite diminished, Chef Tony seemed genuinely concerned that he wasn’t eating and asked what foods he could make that might tempt him to eat more.” – Deborah H.
Our Life Enrichment program offers an ever-changing calendar of events seven days a week, from morning till evening, allowing residents to be as active as they want to be. Activities and friendships help reduce stress, preserve wellness, keep the mind sharp, and increase feelings of self worth, especially for seniors. Our team draws from a wide range of resident interests in an effort to appeal to all. We celebrate the uniqueness of each of the personalities among us.
Come visit us soon, and discover why Kensington Place may be the ideal new home for your loved one when they are ready for a memory care community.