Thursday, September 24, 2020

Reflexology, Possible Therapeutic Approach to Alzheimer’s

US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center / Public domain

Part 3 of 3

Could a reflexology technique serve as a therapeutic approach for those with Alzheimer’s?  The possibility exists that a targeted reflexology technique could mirror the researched effects of targeted light and sound techniques to help dissipate tangled amyloid plaque areas commonly found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Linking sight, sound and the pressure techniques of reflexology is the sensory experience provided by each. 

Exposure of “Alzheimer’s mice” to specific sound and light has been demonstrated by MIT researchers to increase activity of gamma brain waves and, as a result, lessen amyloid plaque areas in the mice brains. (1) (2)

Pull Quote

“Gamma (brain wave) activity represents an important marker of successful memory formation, episodic recall and other behavioral and cognitive functions. Sensorimotor, learning memory, information processing, and behavioral functions are important in everyday life of humans and are also integral in execution of life processes.” (3)

Gamma brain waves are known to decrease in activity for those with Alzheimer’s. In both the light and sound studies it was found, “Once the brain is flushed with gamma waves, two effects come into play: fewer amyloid plaques are produced and more of these existing plaques are cleared out by immune cells known as microglia.” 

MIT researchers found specific light exposure created change in brain waves of the visual cortex of the brain while specific sound exposure created change in the auditory cortex as well as a nearby area, the hippocampos. Further areas of the brain were found to be effected by exposure to light over a longer period of time. 

The researchers hypothesize that other sensory experiences could impact further areas of the brain. ‘If we can activate gamma (brain waves) in many different brain regions, perhaps we can get a huge area of the brain involved,’ says (MIT researcher Dr. Li-Huei), Tsai. ‘Treating the whole brain will be important for people with Alzheimer’s disease.’” (1)

MIT researchers would like to determine “whether other modes of sensory stimulation, such as sound or touch, have similar effects on the regions of the brain that process those inputs. Ultimately, the goal is to find multiple ways to noninvasively stimulate the brain so that the induced gamma waves propagate strongly throughout it.”

Reflexology technique application provides the sensory experience of pressure to the feet and hands. Kunz and Kunz posited this theory in 1981 following work with paralyzed individuals.  Pressure sensors in the feet communicate information about movement as well as activities throughout the body including mechanisms such as the autonomic nervous system. (3) 

Researchers working with healthy male subjects found that targeted reflexology work created increased gamma and beta brain wave activity in the frontal cortex of the brain. (1)  


“The frontal lobe (cortex) is the part of the brain that controls important cognitive skills in humans, such as emotional expression, problem solving, memory, language, judgment, and sexual behaviors. It is, in essence, the “control panel” of our personality and our ability to communicate.… “It is also responsible for primary motor function, or our ability to consciously move our muscles, and the two key areas related to speech, including Broca’s area.” (5)


What specific sensory experiences created increase in gamma brain waves? 


Exposing “Alzheimer’s mice” for an hour a day for a week to lights flickering at the speed of 40 hertz per second “sharply reduced” by half the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque in the visual cortex of mice brains. Longer term treatment showed 

MIT researchers also studied using sound to increase activity of gamma waves in the brain. Mice were exposed to sound at a hum of 40 hertz for an hour a day. Results were even more promising than those of the light study. Reduced was the plaque in not only the auditory cortex of the brain but a near-by area the hippocampos where memories are stored.

A reflex area reflecting the cortex of the brain located in the ball of the big toe was targeted by reflexology researchers. Five minutes of application to each big toe for seven consecutive days resulted in an increase in gamma brain waves.

Further implications for targeted reflexology 

Does reflexology effect amyloid plaque? Such research has not been conducted. (Amyloid imaging using the PET (positron emission tomography) has emerged as a method other than post mortem autopsy. (6)) The possibilities are intriguing. As noted below in more recent research at MIT, longer term application of sensory stimulation of light included effects beyond those noted above. 

Further results benefiting those with Alzheimer’s are possible. “… MIT researchers tested the effects of longer-term treatment by exposing mouse models with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease to up to 6 weeks of gamma entrainment by visual stimulation. Results showed stimulation increased gamma brain waves in the visual cortex and higher-order brain areas, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Continuing stimulation also preserved neuronal and synaptic density in these brain regions, improved performance on memory tasks, and reduced inflammation. Findings point to an overall neuroprotective effect, even in the later stages of neurodegeneration, the researchers reported.” (7)


(1) Dougherty, Elizabeth, “Seeing the Light, Aging Brain Initiative researchers discover a potential Alzheimer’s therapy,” Spectrum (MIT), Spring 2017

(2) “Low-Hum Therapy Seems to Counteract Alzheimer’s Symptoms in Mice” https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/low-hum-therapy-seems-to-counteract-alzheimer-s-symptoms-in-mice/

(3) Cevat Unal, Menizibeya O.Welcome, Mariam Salako, Faruk Abdullahi, Nuhu M. Abubakar, Vladimir A.Pereverzev, Siti Sugih Hartiningsih, Senol Dane, “The effect of foot reflexotherapy on the dynamics of cortical oscillatory waves in healthy humans: An EEG study,” Complementary Therapies in MedicineVolume 38, June 2018 , Pages 42-47

(4) Kunz, Barbara, Kunz, Kevin, The Complete Guide to Foot Reflexology (Third Edition), RRP Press, 2005

(5) https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/frontal-lobe#1

(6) Subapriya Suppiah, Melanie-Anne Didier, Sobhan Vinjamuri,” The Who, When, Why, and How of PET Amyloid Imaging in Management of Alzheimer’s Disease—Review of Literature and Interesting Images,”  Diagnostics (Basel). 2019 Jun; 9(2): 65., PMCID: PMC6627350, PMID: 31242587

(7) https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/noninvasive-brain-wave-treatment-reduces-alzheimers-pathology-improves-memory-mice


Books by Kunz and Kunz

Research Books

Medical Applications of Reflexology: Findings in Research About Post-operative care, Maternity Care and Cancer Care
Evidenced Based Reflexology Research: For Health Professionals and Researchers
Medical applications of Reflexology:: Findings in Research about Cancer Care

Bestselling Books


 Reflexology: Hands-on Treatment for Vitality and Well-being
Complete Reflexology for Life: Your Definitive Photographic Reference to the Best Techniques and Treatments  
 

Intermittent Moving Books

Intermittent Moving: How I Lost My Pants and Mastered My Weight
Un-Sit Your Life: The Reflex "Diet" Solution


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