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Flickering Lights May Illuminate A Path To Alzheimer's Treatment ( 30

Slashdot reader rpavlicek writes, "Research done by MIT late this year has shown that light signals can improve the brain's neuron gamma frequency which can reverse the effects of Alzheimer's disease (by removing brain plaque). Beneficial effects were found in both intercranial and optical stimuli." The Los Angeles Times reports: New research demonstrates that, in mice whose brains are under attack by Alzheimer's dementia, exposure to lights that flicker at a precise frequency can right the brain's faulty signaling and energize its immune cells to fight off the disease... In mice, these effects were limited to the visual cortex. In humans with Alzheimer's, that's not one of the brain regions that gets gummed up early or significantly by amyloid plaques. But the authors of the new research held out hope that the light therapy might induce gamma oscillations, or their immune-boosting effect, more broadly in human brains, or that some change in delivery of the light might extend its effects to brain regions, such as the hippocampus, that are profoundly affected by Alzheimer's.
A startup has already approached the FDA seeking clinical trials, and the L.A. Times adds that "Even if the new research does not yield a treatment for Alzheimer's, it is expected to deepen understanding of a key player in the disease -- the brain's dedicated immune system -- and point to ways it can be used to fight the disease."
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Flickering Lights May Illuminate A Path To Alzheimer's Treatment

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  • They hold out great promise, and it doesn't really hurt to try. But I wouldn't get my hopes up too much.

  • by tgetzoya ( 827201 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @03:15PM (#53552499)
    How many light are there? Does this mean Gul Madred was a futuristic neurologist?
    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      There are FOUR lights!
    • I once complimented a woman for her Christmas brooch, which had tiny, multicolored, rapidly flickering LEDs on it. "I use it at work," she said, when she has to feed Alzheimer's patients. They fixate on the flickering brooch, she explained, which gives them the calming and the concentration needed to accept her spoonfeeding.

      I hope other caregivers experiment with LEDs.
  • Time to feed the old timers some bath salts, ecstasy and bust out the xenon strobe lights and lasers and turns the lights out. LOL []
  • That's a worry! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @03:24PM (#53552527)

    So a precisely tuned flicker-frequency (40Hz in mice) does great things for brain function and maintenance -- so what deleterious effects do things like CRT monitors, mains-powered fluro/LED lighting etc have on our brains -- given that they're operating "out of sync" with our gamma waves?

    Could it be that the increase in dementia/Alzheimer's is related to our exposure to such off-frequency flickering on a very wide scale, thanks to modern technology?

    • That does seem like a question at least worth throwing some mice at; but also one that may be aging itself out: I can't really remember the last time I actually used a CRT for any length of time; and the nasty iron ballast fluorescent drivers seem to be less common as well, though not as aggressively replaced if they aren't failing.

      At this point, most of the flicker has moved well away from mains-induced frequencies and up into PWM brightness control; that could also have an effect; but it's a much, much
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      120Hz is the 3rd harmonic of 40 so most monitors these days should be fine? If you read the summary, it seems only the neurons responsible for the vision part of the brain were 'affected' in a somewhat positive way and that's typically not the area that Alzheimer's affects.

      For 'succesful' light therapy, my intuition would be that it would require skull removal/drilling (on mice at first) or perhaps a very high intensity light source would be needed to affect other parts of the brain.

    • Or it could be the mouse models of Alzheimers that are based on overexpression of amyloid precursor protein don't really reflect the pathology found in humans. []
    • I thought the brains only happened to sync at 40Hz, but they could sync at other speeds - so it's not like a faster/slower rate is "out of sync" with any natural rhythm, just that your brain cells may sync to whatever speed incoming light is regularly oscillating at, or perhaps particular frequencies.

      It could mean that all of the staring so many of us do at LCD monitors is actually *helpful*, a preventative measure for ALS! Or perhaps with some slight modulation it could be so. I'm already running my (LCD

      • LCDs have refresh rates; but they don't 'flicker' the way CRTs do(unless the video source instructs them to).

        Even when displaying a static image, CRTs show substantial variations in brightness(easily visible with video gear; really annoying to the naked eye with lousier hardware) as the electron guns scan about keeping the right phosphors pumped.

        LCDs may flicker at the PWM frequency of the backlight LEDs, if LED backlit; but refresh rate reflects only how often a new image can be sent to the panel, no
        • Great point, I was really thinking of the LED refresh rate, but for some reason had got it in my head it was the same as the redraw rate that is as you say not the same...

          I was using my computer recently on a 24Hz screen (HDMI with 4k support) and it didn't really seem to bother me much.

          • Yeah, it seems to be down to individual preference. I was fine with text based stuff, and most video isn't more than 30fps anyway; but I kept running into a situation where I would move the mouse a bit too fast and the cursor disappearing from where it was in one frame and reappearing where it was for the next frame would show up as a 'blink'/'jump' effect that tweaked my visual response to sudden movement and just drove me nuts.

            Saves you some trouble if you aren't bothered, though, things are way better
    • Yet some flicker-rates can cause seizures to epileptics... Working on that premise, I do believe the MIC made a 'sick stick' by flickering lights at a certain frequency causing the viewer to vomit.

      https://www.technologyreview.c... []

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @03:28PM (#53552537)

    Telling an elderly person to "move towards the light" might set off panic.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This will likely lead to the collapse of the Alzheimer's market, currently estimated at between $3 billion with a potential for $20 billion. There is no foreseeable way to profitably monetize therapies based on flashing lights.

    Your partners in good health,
    Giant Pharma
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @06:03PM (#53552973) Journal

    I thought this was a post about the NVidia update process?

  • Likely Not To Work (Score:4, Informative)

    by ByTor-2112 ( 313205 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @07:13PM (#53553239)

    Unfortunately, a podcast I listened to recently, possibly Radiolab, also added that when moving Alzheimers therapies from mice to humans, there is a 99.6% failure rate.

    • Radiolab broke the story with their []">Bringing Gamma Back episode. The remarkable thing about this research is that they focused on the lack of gamma wave activity in those suffering from Alzheimers. This has been observed in both the brains of mice and humans.

      If human brains cannot have gamma waves induced with LEDs like mice, I am sure there are many different options for inducing gamma. However, the fact that mice and human brains both have gamma wave patterns and b
  • How about delivery via the other senses? Eg Binaural Beats? Get on YouTube, there's plenty of Gamma frequencies to experiment with.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson