[If neurons fire] 30 to 90 times [in a single second], that’s a gamma wave, which has been linked to higher mental abilities, like memory, attention, and perception. It’s no surprise, then, that scientists have seen disrupted gamma waves in many types of brain disorders, including injuries, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Hannah Iaccarino and Annabelle Singer have shown that these disrupted gamma waves aren’t just a symptom of Alzheimer’s. By restoring normal gamma waves, Iaccarino and Singer actually managed to counteract a hallmark of the disease.
“It’s potentially transformative,” and not because of its medical implications, says Vikaas Sohal, from the University of California, San Francisco…“Many neuroscientists…haven’t really thought about how [brain waves] could change the biology of cells.”
[The scientists] used a technique called optogenetics, in which neurons are loaded with light-sensitive proteins so that they can be activated by flashes of light. By sending 40 such flashes a second, the team could create gamma waves in the brains of their mice. And after doing so for an hour, they found that they had roughly halved the levels of beta-amyloid [and reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s].
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