Light therapy might be an effective tool to help Alzheimer’s patients, research from UVA Health finds.
Researchers used jetlagged mice to study the effects of sundowning, the confusion that Alzheimer’s patients may experience from dusk through the night. Alzheimer’s patients experiencing sundowning may be not only confused, but restless, agitated, and irritable, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Typically, a person’s biological clock adjusts gradually to changes in light. What the researchers did was alter the exposure to light the mice received to see how it affected their behavior. The mice with Alzheimer’s reacted differently. They adapted to a six-hour time change abnormally fast in comparison to the control mice, indicating that enhanced light sensitivity may contribute to sundowning. That sensitivity also many “spur sleep disruptions thought to contribute to the disease’s progression,” according to a news release.
The research results that are published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience indicate the retina plays an important role in that enhanced light sensitivity.
“These data suggest that controlling the kind of light and the timing of the light could be key to reducing circadian disruptions in Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Heather Ferris, who conducted the research. “We hope that this research will help us to develop light therapies that people can use to reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Additional research would involve different types of light exposure and at different times to see what would help most.
Ferris told NBC29 in Charlottesville, “Changing the lighting and in the home or the lighting in a nursing home, you know, that’s something that’s really practical. It’s not going to be super expensive, so we think that this is something that could have a really big impact on care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Feature image, terovesalainen/stock.adobe.com
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