From The Biomedical Scientist
“Finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, is one of the key challenges for modern science, and a research team in the US might have made a significant breakthrough.
The team’s paper, Gamma frequency entrainment attenuates amyloid load and modifies microglia, was published at the end of 2016 in Nature. It explains how they were able to reduce levels of the beta-amyloid proteins that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s by stimulating neural oscillations – that is, brain waves.
Brain waves come in many types, among them gamma waves. These oscillate at around 20 to 50hz (20 to 50 times a second) and are associated with high-level cognitive functions, such as memory and perception.
Disruptions to gamma waves have been observed in various neurological disorders, including schizophrenia, as well as Alzheimer’s, but the research team took the unusual approach of considering the interference to the waves to be more than just symptomatic.
Dr Annabelle Singer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, is one of the leading members of the team, and she completed this work while a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the rest of the team resides.
Dr Singer explains the team’s strategy: “Typically people have thought of Alzheimer’s disease as progressing in one direction: from molecular pathology, such as an excess build-up of proteins, to dysfunctional brain waves to memory impairment. So it was novel to ask if dysfunctional brain waves themselves lead to changes in protein build-up.”
This protein build-up is the cause of the gradual accumulation of the plaque that is thought to disrupt the connections between neurons and eventually impair the normal function of the brain. Most current medication targets the amyloid protein in a bid to prevent the plaque from growing and so maintain the ability of neurons to work as part of the overall network…” Read more here