Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a progressive degenerative neurological disorder that causes dementia to occur in the elderly. This type of dementia proceeds in stages, gradually destroying memory, reason, judgment, language, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest of tasks.
In the regions attacked by AD, the nerve cells degenerate, losing their connections or synapses with other neurons, and some of these neurons die. AD begins in an important memory center in the brain (entorhinal cortex) and proceeds to the hippocampus. The hippocampus is located inside the temporal lobe and is important in memory formation and navigation. As the hippocampal neurons degenerate, short-term memory falters, and often the ability to perform routine tasks begins to deteriorate as well. AD then gradually spreads to other regions, particularly the cerebral cortex, where it begins to take away language and reason.
Scientists discovered that levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine fell sharply in people with AD. Acetylcholine is a critical neurotransmitter in the process of forming memories and is used by neurons in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. While levels of acetylcholine fall somewhat in normal aging, about 90% of those with AD experienced declining levels. Serotonin levels are also lower than normal in AD patients and may contribute to sensory disturbances, aggressive behavior, and neuron death.
Eyelights therapy can excite nerve cells, minimizing further degeneration, and potentially slow down the progression of the disease. Light therapy can also cause the brain to produce higher levels of neurotransmitters, improving function within the temporal lobe (memory/mental state).
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