In a study led by neurologist Dr. Abdel Ennaceur, from the University of Sunderland, UK, researchers have demonstrated that standard exposure to low level infrared light, emitted from a helmet-like device invented by Dr Gordon Dougal, Director, Virulite, could improve the learning performance and cognitive function of the brain. The researchers expect that further research in the area could help in the treatment of Alzheimer disease, the most common form of dementia.
The data submitted by the researchers state that a mere 10-minute daily exposure to 1072nm of infrared radiation for four weeks could improve the cognitive function and reverse the effects of dementia and memory loss. Also, the low levels of radiation, which is similar to what is naturally present in sunlight, was deemed to be safe. The infrared therapy was earlier used by Dr. Dougal for the treatment of cold sores, and a clinical trial in humans is expected shortly.
Griebe et al (Neuroscience Letters, 2007) had compared the sensitivity and specificity of Fourier-transformed infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy with the standard measurement of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) Tau and Î²-amyloid1â€“42 proteins for the diagnosis of Alzheimer disease. They studied 71 Alzheimer patients characterized by an increased Tau protein and a decreased Î²-Amyloid1â€“42 in the cerebrospinal fluid, and 66 controls. Healthy subjects were distinguished from diseased ones by the combined quotient of tau/Î²-amyloid1â€“42 with 99% sensitivity and 86% specificity. The artificial neural network developed for automatic diagnostic analysis could discrete FT-IR spectroscopy data with 88.5% sensitivity and 80% specificity. The researchers concluded that the novel FT-IR spectroscopy is cost-effective and easy to perform, with diagnostic sensitivity and specificity comparable to pathological CSF analysis.
According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, in America, every 72 seconds, one person develops Alzheimer disease (AD). AD is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, characterized by the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (tangled bundles of fibers) in the brain. In 2007, approximately 5.1 million Americans were diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, including 4.9 million people of age 65 years and above. Some of the symptoms of the disease includes loss of memory, confusion, restlessness, mood swings, and loss of concentration. Due to its similarities with the symptoms of normal aging, early detection of the diseased condition is often overlooked. In due course, Alzheimer disease results in a total loss of cognition, individuality, and functional ability.
Currently available drugs such as tacrine (CognexÂ® | Sciele Pharma), Donepezil (AriceptÂ® | Eisai), rivastigmine (ExelonÂ® | Novartis), and galantamine (RazadyneÂ® | Ortho-McNeil Neurologics), and memantine (NamendaÂ® | Forest Pharmaceuticals) are used for managing the symptoms of Alzheimers, rather than controlling the disease.
The current study appears to be a breakthrough in developing a treatment option for Alzheimer disease that can slow down the progress of the disease as well as reverse the disease symptoms by stimulating the cells to repair the damage that results in loss of memory and other neurological impairments.
1. New research could help reverse the biological clock for dementia patients. News. University of Sunderland. Last accessed on January 29, 2008.
2. Griebe M, Daffertshofer M, Stroick M, et al. Infrared spectroscopy: A new diagnostic tool in Alzheimer disease. Neuroscience Letters. 2007 Jun 8;420(1):29-33.