Tactile stimulation at 40 Hz may help in Alzheimer's treatment

New MIT study says whole-body stimulation improved motor performance, reduced phosphorylated tau, preserved neurons and synapses, and reduced DNA damage.
Sejal Sharma
Representational image
Stimulating the brain to help treat Alzheimer's


A new study by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has shown that mice with Alzheimer’s who were exposed to a 40 Hz vibration for an hour a day for six weeks showed improved brain health and motor function.

The stimulation improved motor performance, reduced phosphorylated tau (accumulation of phosphorylated tau is a key pathological feature of Alzheimer's disease), preserved neurons and synapses, and reduced DNA damage.

It is not the first study to prove that stimulation can reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms and pathology, as previous research using light and sound in mice and humans has shown significant improvement in symptoms. However, it is the first study of its kind to conclude the same using tactile stimulation. The team’s finding provides an avenue to treat neurodegenerative diseases with non-invasive therapeutic strategies.

The team ran the stimulation experiments in a mouse model

The mice were given whole-body vibrotactile stimulation at 40 Hz to test their brain pathology and motor function. The team found that the vibrotactile stimulation-induced neural activity both in the primary sensory cortex (the part of the brain that makes sense of the information gathered by our senses) and the primary motor cortex (which generates signals to direct the movement of the body).

The team was also able to show that daily vibrotactile stimulation over several weeks improved the pathology in these brain regions, reduced phosphorylated tau and neurodegeneration, and decreased synaptic protein loss and DNA damage. In addition, they observed improved performance in motor tasks.

The team made these conclusions after comparing their findings with the non-stimulated control group of mice.

“This work demonstrates a third sensory modality that we can use to increase gamma power in the brain,” said Li-Huei Tsai, co-author of the study and director of The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the Aging Brain Initiative at MIT, in a press release. “We are very excited to see that 40 Hz tactile stimulation benefits motor abilities, which has not been shown with the other modalities. It would be interesting to see if tactile stimulation can benefit human subjects with impairment in motor function.”

The authors of the study note that aging is a major risk factor for neurodegeneration and age-related brain pathologies. DNA damage, synaptic loss, and accumulation of tau aggregates are often exacerbated in neurodegenerative diseases.

“The current study, along with our previous studies using visual or auditory GENUS, demonstrates the possibility of using noninvasive sensory stimulation as a novel therapeutic strategy for ameliorating pathology and improving behavioral performance in neurodegenerative diseases,” the authors conclude.

The study was published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

Study abstract:

The risk for neurodegenerative diseases increases with aging, with various pathological conditions and functional deficits accompanying these diseases. We have previously demonstrated that non-invasive visual stimulation using 40 Hz light flicker ameliorated pathology and modified cognitive function in mouse models of neurodegeneration, but whether 40 Hz stimulation using another sensory modality can impact neurodegeneration and motor function has not been studied. Here, we show that whole-body vibrotactile stimulation at 40 Hz leads to increased neural activity in the primary somatosensory cortex (SSp) and primary motor cortex (MOp). In two different mouse models of neurodegeneration, Tau P301S and CK-p25 mice, daily exposure to 40 Hz vibrotactile stimulation across multiple weeks also led to decreased brain pathology in SSp and MOp. Furthermore, both Tau P301S and CK-p25 mice showed improved motor performance after multiple weeks of daily 40 Hz vibrotactile stimulation. Vibrotactile stimulation at 40 Hz may thus be considered as a promising therapeutic strategy for neurodegenerative diseases with motor deficits.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board