The past understanding of gamma waves was typically limited to the transformation of comic book characters like the Incredible Hulk and as fantastic plot devices in science fiction stories by Isaac Asmimov and the writers of Doctor Who. But a new company is attempting to harness the potential of gamma waves to help slow cognitive decline and the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Established in 2018 by Terry Moore, HomeoLux is a wellness and technology company that has created a brain stimulation light devised to maintain and potentially improve cognitive function. And while the science behind the device is still a work in progress, the potential for gamma waves has excited researchers and experts who study how the brain functions.
What are gamma waves?
The human brain produces small amounts of electrical waves when neurons transmit messages, usually at 13 to 30 hertz (Hz), or cycles per second. Complex mechanisms like memory and concentration increase that frequency to 30 to 60 Hz and sometimes up to 90, and research studies have indicated that gamma waves are involved in not only high-process memory and consciousness activities but in neurological problems and psychiatric disorders.
Cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s
From mild to severe, cognitive impairment, which affects a person’s ability to learn, remember, concentrate, and make decisions, impacts more than 16 million people in the U.S. The most well-known forms of impairment are dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with no current treatment options that can do more than slow the prognosis or offer modest improvements. Currently, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Gamma wave research
Recent research supported by the National Institute on Aging and conducted by MIT exposed Alzheimer mouse models to flickering LED lights played at 40 Hz. They discovered a stimulation of gamma waves that can reduce proteins that cause Alzheimer’s and boost microglia cells that clear harmful debris in the brain and spinal cord.
By conducting the light stimulation for one hour per day for a week, researchers found that the mice performed better on simple memory tasks like recognizing objects and navigating a maze.
An additional study, which lasted six weeks, saw an increase in gamma waves in higher-order brain areas and reduced inflammation, prompting plans for continued studies on human subjects.
Terry Moore and HomeoLux
Inspired by his wife’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, former management consultant, director of the Radius Foundation, and TED Speaker Terry Moore began researching the disease and possible cures, and discovered the research being done at MIT. He developed a prototype of a gamma frequency light to help his wife before founding HomeoLux in 2018.
The company’s advisory board includes a pediatric emergency physician, a physicist, and a neuroscientist.
A source of light
Moore’s inspiration and research led to the Beacon40, a personal stimulation lamp meant for use in living rooms, offices, and bedrooms.
The Beacon delivers pulses of light at 40 Hz (40 per second) and is meant to be used for a minimum of one hour per day. The device consists of a base with adjustable settings for duration, color tone, and brightness, a remote control, and two satellite lamps. It will soon be available through homeolux.com and sells for $399.
While the company points out that results vary from person to person, early users have noted a qualitative difference in memory, focus, and coordination, with regular use of the Beacon, after about six weeks. The company advises people to consult a doctor before using the Beacon, and to avoid this product if you have a history of epilepsy or seizures.