Potentially life-changing research is focusing on microglia and how they are activated and mobilized to do their vital work. Researchers have known for some time that a healthy brain produces waves at a certain frequency (40Hz per second) and that this rhythm is disrupted in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2016, researchers from MIT found that exposing mice to lights that flicker at this same frequency—40 flickers per second—could actually reduce the build-up of the brain-disrupting plaque that is thought to cause dementia in people with Alzheimer’s disease. New research, building on that breakthrough study, has discovered more about the mechanism behind this surprising effect. The flickering light, tuned to the brain’s natural rhythm, increases the expression of cytokines, a special chemical whose job it is to recruit microglia to break down the toxic plaques.
Notice that this research is focused on understanding how the healthy brain works. The flickering lights in both studies are designed not to target the toxic amyloid plaque directly, but to encourage the brain to use its own system more efficiently. The light serves to boost the health of the brain—not to interfere with or replace the brain’s natural functions.