Combating Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia with Neurofeedback

Updated: May 8


Fotuhi is a neurologist who has long believed that taking care of the brain, as well as one takes care of the rest of their body, can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. There isn’t a reliable way to treat dementia with prescription drugs. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is to cost $1 trillion in US health care costs by 2050, annually. In 2016, research was done at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference that led to the conclusion that exercise and “brain training” can protect the brain from cognitive aging. Scientists don’t know what initiates Alzheimer’s Disease in a person however; a hypothesis by the name of, “Amyloid Cascade Hypothesis” took the attention of the science community in 1992. The Amyloid Cascade Hypothesis explains that the main driver of Alzheimer’s disease is due to excessive amyloid (protein) buildup in the brain which clumps into plaques.

“The overproduction of amyloid is thought to be a cause of early-onset Alzheimer’s, which can affect the brains of people in their 40s and 50s.” More than 30% of people worldwide who has Alzheimer’s disease , 9.6 million to be exact, are cases that could have been prevented. Hypertension in middle age people, diabetes, obesity, physical activity, depression, smoking and low education are variables that play a factor in having Alzheimer’s disease.

According to an estimate published in the journal Hypertension, "if every middle-aged American with high blood pressure got properly treated for it, about 25% of dementia cases would be wiped out.” There is a strong link between strong hearts with healthy minds. The brain uses 20% of pumped blood for that reason anything that would affect blood flow, would ultimately affect the brain. The Framingham Heart Study tracked dementia in 5,205 people aged 60 and older since 1975. Since then, people with at least a HS Diploma fell 44%.

The hippocampus is the first region of the brain to shrivel when people age. This can be reversed (the brain can grow) through meditation and exercise intervention. Fotuhi gave his patients cognitive tests during a three month period, to assess their strengths and weaknesses (which costs $6, 000 - $7,000 depending on one’s coverage of health insurance). During this three month period, people were encouraged to exercise, play brain games that are tailored to their weaknesses, go through cognitive behavioral therapy and have sessions of neurofeedback (a technique that lets patients modify their brain activity in real time) meditate, eat a Mediterranean diet, reduce stress and improve their sleep.

"Of 127 older patients with mild cognitive impairment, 84% showed improvement in at least three areas of cognitive function. Of the 17 who had an MRI before and after the study, eight had some shrinking or no growth in the hippocampus, but nine saw theirs grow by at least 1%."

Neurofeedback is a mind-based (cognitive) training technique that teaches you how to identify counterproductive brain activity patterns so you can consciously disrupt and replace them with healthier, more balanced brain activity patterns.

The ultimate goal of neurofeedback is to give you the tools you need to re-establish neural equilibrium, reverse unhealthy thought patterns, and help you take charge of your mind. In short, it helps you — and your brain — self-regulate more efficiently and effectively in virtually any situation.

To appreciate how neurofeedback works, it’s important to understand how brainwave patterns shape your thoughts, feelings, and actions. When your brain cells (neurons) convey information to one another, they generate congruous electrical impulses called brainwaves.

Neurofeedback is a noninvasive therapy that harnesses the power of neuroplasticity to help you create a more harmonious “brain activity orchestra” that includes an optimal balance of low-frequency brainwave patterns and mid-to-high-frequency patterns.

During a neurofeedback session, you sit comfortably in a chair with electrode sensors on your scalp. These sensors only read the electrical signals produced by your brain and transmit them to a computer, they don’t transmit any type of signal to your brain.

Depending on your treatment plan, you may be asked to watch images on a screen, listen to music, or play a video game. As you engage in this simple activity, your doctor monitors your brainwaves and sets targeted training parameters using specialized brain mapping software.

When you engage in neurofeedback, you actually get to see a visual representation of the ebb and flow of your brainwave patterns in real time as your brain responds to the images, sounds, or game you’re presented with.

If you’re watching a movie, for example, the screen will become brighter and you’ll hear special musical tones when your brain produces favorable brainwave patterns. When it produces less harmonious brainwave patterns, the screen dims.

This instantaneous feedback helps your brain learn, on a subconscious level, what it needs to do to make the screen brighter. Over time, your brain figures out how to develop and sustain the helpful brainwave patterns that keep the screen active — and promote healthier thoughts and behaviors.

As your brain continues to subconsciously practice efficiency, coordination, and balance, your brainwaves gradually improve and you get better at controlling your thoughts and actions. Like any new skill, neurofeedback therapy works over time, through reinforcement and repetition.


Resources:

1. https://www.nature.com/articles/ncpneuro1044?gspk=ZWxsYXJldmFrNzIxMQ&gsxid=2pVE5T4VzQw6


2. https://www.tmsbrainhealth.com/what-happens-during-a-neurofeedback-session/


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