Experimental therapy is shedding a new light on Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but effective treatments are being researched continuously.
Can Light Therapy Help Alzheimer’s?
One potential treatment option that has shown to be effective is light therapy, which has proven to restore gamma levels and reduce beta-amyloid levels. By reducing the levels of beta-amyloid it reduces plaque forming that clogs the brain, which is a distinctive trait of Alzheimer’s disease.
Numbers Behind Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease isn’t only devastating for the person involved, but for the family as well. As family members it’s normal to want to do everything in our power to help our loved ones with this disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, responsible for destroying brain cells and impairing cognitive function.
Alzheimer’s disease causes a higher number of deaths than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. The number of deaths from Alzheimer’s has increased by 89% since 2000. Our healthcare system is taking notice of the epidemic caused by this deadly disease and the impact it has on families.
Is Light Therapy Shown Effective?
Two inherent properties define the biological grounds of light therapy:
Wavelength and intensity.
The wavelength range of visible light is roughly from 780 nm (red end) to 400 nm (violet end). The circadian rhythm is often referred to as body clock and it represents a 24-hour cycle that regulates sleep and other physiological processes. Light therapy targets the subjective human biological clock and attempts to reset the phase of the clock’s activity, relative to the cycles of light and dark.
The common goals of light therapy are:
- to synchronize the sleep-wake cycle with the subjective night
- to facilitate sleep at a desired time of day or night
- to attain indirect effects on the mood of a patient.
Light therapy successfully increases gamma power in the brain and reduces beta-amyloid plaques by more than 50%.Even when older mice were treated at later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, just one week of light therapy reduced beta-amyloid levels and other features of the disease.
Can Light Therapy Have Negative Effects?
While exciting, the existing research on light therapy has downsides. Studies have been conducted mainly using mice as subjects to date. Experiments can often be very effective and positive in medical research using mice, but the findings do not translate when applied to humans.
Light therapy did not change the hippocampus significantly, a major brain region affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The reduction of beta-amyloid in the mice was observed only in the visual cortex of the brain.
What Studies Have Proven?
Two different studies have shown positive results:
- Burns and Byrne found that dementia patients sleep more deeply and for an average of 40 minutes longer in front of a bright light for two hours every night.
- a study published on June 11, 2008 by a Dutch research group indicated that bright light therapy in conjunction with melatonin enhanced symptoms of impaired thinking, mood, behavior, cognitive capacity, and sleep.
Light therapy is still in the early phase of research, and although at this stage it is by no means a cure or treatment choice, it is an amazingly simple and exciting idea which could revolutionize the management of such a complex disease.
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