By exposing mice to a unique combination of light and sound, MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can improve cognitive and memory impairments similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s patients.
This noninvasive treatment, which works by inducing brain waves known as gamma oscillations, also greatly reduced the number of amyloid plaques found in the brains of these mice. Plaques were cleared in large swaths of the brain, including areas critical for cognitive functions such as learning and memory.
“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,” says Li-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the senior author of the study.
Further study will be needed, she says, to determine if this type of treatment will work in human patients. The researchers have already performed some preliminary safety tests of this type of stimulation in healthy human subjects.
MIT graduate student Anthony Martorell and Georgia Tech graduate student Abigail Paulson are the lead authors of the study, which appears in the March 14 issue of Cell.