United States: Patients getting chemotherapy experienced cognitive effects such as memory loss and concentration impairment, which led to a condition commonly called “chemo brain.”

The latest study by MIT researchers

The research showed that a noninvasive treatment, stimulating gamma frequency brain waves, might prove miraculous in treating chemo brain.

In the study conducted on mice, it was discovered that regular exposure to light and sound at a frequency of 40 hertz each offered a protective shield for brain cells against chemotherapy-induced damage.

The method also proved useful in preventing memory loss and downgrading of cognitive functions.

More about the treatment

The treatment was originally formed to treat Alzheimer’s disease, proving helpful by providing widespread effects that could help with various neurological disorders, as per the researchers.

Li-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the Picower Professor in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, stated, “The treatment can reduce DNA damage, reduce inflammation, and increase the number of oligodendrocytes, which are the cells that produce myelin surrounding the axons,” as news.mit.edu reported.

Furthermore, Tsai added, “We also found that this treatment improved learning and memory and enhanced executive function in the animals.”

The new study is published in Science Translational Medicine.

Know about protective brain waves

While conducting the study for several years, Tsai and her colleagues started exploring the uses of light flickering at 40 hertz as a method to better off the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Moreover, the previous work had showed that Alzheimer’s patients possess gamma oscillations, which are brain waves ranging from 25 to 80 hertz. The waves are believed to add on to brain functions like attention, perception, and memory.

Light flickering role in the human brain

According to Tsai’s studies performed on mice, it found that on exposure to light flickering at 40 hertz or sounds with a pitch of 40 hertz, can stimulate gamma waves in the brain. It has proved to have many health protective effects, including, among others, preventing the formation of amyloid beta plaques.

Tsai said, “Chemo brain caught our attention because it is extremely common, and there is quite a lot of research on what the brain is like following chemotherapy treatment,” and, “From our previous work, we know that this gamma sensory stimulation has anti-inflammatory effects, so we decided to use the chemo brain model to test whether sensory gamma stimulation can be beneficial.”

Role of single-cell RNA sequencing in the study

The researcher studies that using single-cell RNA sequencing modifies gene expressions, which was shown in mice after receiving the gamma treatment.

It was found that, in those mice, the genes having inflammation and the genes causing cell death were suppressed,

Tsai added, “I think this is a very fundamental mechanism to improve myelination and to promote the integrity of oligodendrocytes. It seems that it’s not specific to the agent that induces demyelination, be it chemotherapy or another source of demyelination,” as news.mit.edu reported.


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