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Listening to low-pitched noise, such as a low-E note, appears to break down toxic clumps in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, new research reveals.
It does this by activating high-speed brainwaves, which reflect how alert people are.
Faster brainwaves, known as gamma waves, cycle around 40 times a second when a person is concentrating, making a decision or remembering something, however, these are often reduced in Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Mice with Alzheimer’s who are played a low-pitch noise have around half as many dementia-associated plaques in the regions where sound is processed and the area associated with memory, which is known as the hippocampus, a US study found.
Previous research by the same scientists found flashing lights in the eyes of mice with Alzheimer’s could be a new treatment for the disease, however, noise therapy may be a more effective, ‘entirely doable form of therapy’.
Although the studies have only been tested in animals to date, the safety of such treatments mean trials are already underway in human sufferers.
One in eight people over 65 in the US have Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for around 70 percent of all dementia cases.
How the research was carried out
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology played mice noise with a 40 Hertz pitch, which is similar to the lowest E on a standard piano.
They then analyzed the mice’s brains under a microscope.
Noise therapy is more effective than light treatments
Previous research showed a flickering light induces gamma waves in the region of the brain that processes information.
Noise may be more effective than light as the hippocampus is closer to the brain region that processes sound than that which interprets sight.
The pathways linking the sound-processing region to the hippocampus may also be more direct, according to the study author Anthony Martorell.
‘An entirely doable form of therapy’
According to David Reynolds, chief scientific officer, Alzheimer’s Research UK, although the results are promising, they may not be quite as strong in human sufferers as they are in mice, but adds, ‘listening to a noise is an entirely doable kind of therapy.’
The safety of gamma-wave treatment means it is already being trialed by the pharmaceutical company Cognito Therapeutics, without requiring extensive animal testing.
The firm is combining sound, light and vibration in 12 people with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s.
Lamps that flicker 40Hz have already been marketed as a dementia therapy.
The study’s findings were presented at the Society for Neuroscience congress in Washington DC last November.
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