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Welcome to the GammaGen website!

GammaGen is a research-based citizen science project developed by The Wisdom Factory CIC.

This project offers the possibility of taking some promising research into a disease affecting millions of people across the world for which there is, at present, no known cure, and expanding the knowledge and research base sufficiently to either confirm that the intervention has some remedial effect or that it should be discounted and the focus should continue in other areas.  This project offers the possibility of ‘citizen science’ working with mainstream research to bring benefit to individual sufferers with little or no hope of a cure, as well as the wider medical and scientific profession.  The benefit for the individual is not just a possible hope of a palliative or cure, but the feeling of doing something to help themselves, rather than simply waiting for this insidious disease to plunge them into darkness, isolation and eventual death.

You can see a video about the principles behind the project here.*

The project is delivered via a smartphone app called GammaGen, available in iOS and Android versions.

With the explicit consent of users, the data from GammaGen sessions will be made available to researchers.  If you are interested in enquiring about or accessing the data please contact us.

*Please note that Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and MIT are not connected in any way to The Wisdom Factory CIC or the GammaGen project.

About

The GammaGen mobile app is designed to be the centrepiece of a ‘citizen science’ project called GammaGen.  The project makes use of recent research into the application of induced brain waves at a frequency of 40 Hz (‘gamma waves’) to affect the accumulation and distribution of amyloid plaques in mammalian brains (mice in the research).  The build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.  The aim of this project is to enable people with the disease, or with genetic factors that make them high risk of acquiring the disease, to engage in a benign potential therapy while at the same time helping to accumulate data in the effectiveness of the treatment.

The app produces light flashing at 40Hz on the screen, at the same time producing a 40Hz tone from the device’s audio circuits.  The app is intended to be used with a simple VR headset (Google Cardboard or similar) and a pair of ordinary headphones.

The nature of the intervention is benign, involving only visible spectrum light and audible sound.  However some safety features have been built into the app:

  1. The app ends the session if the smartphone moves in a way indicating the user has fallen asleep or is moving violently.
  2. The app permits a maximum session duration of 60 minutes.
  3. The app does not permit a further session for 18 hours.

Research background

In December 2016 a research article reported in the journal Nature that some success had been found in the removal of amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s Disease in mice.  The intervention used involved the use of gamma brain waves, i.e. brain waves at around 40Hz.  This original work used light pulses at 40 Hz.  Unsurprisingly the brain areas affected by the intervention were those involved in vision.  Later work used audio stimulation, also tuned to 40Hz (approximately the lowest ‘E’ on a piano) as well as light, and also vibration.  The rationale behind this was to affect as many areas of the brain as possible.  Particular interest was focused on the audio intervention, as the brain areas involved in hearing are physically close to some of the areas in evolved in memory formation and storage, i.e. the hippocampus.  Memory loss is, of course, one of the most well-known symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.  To quote from the research abstract:

‘Our findings uncover a previously unappreciated function of gamma rhythms in recruiting both neuronal and glial responses to attenuate Alzheimer’s-disease-associated pathology.’

Nature (February 2018] gives a layperson’s description of the theory and results to date.  The article also reported that, with successful results in mice and no requirement for the usual safety trials before the intervention is tried on human subjects – the intervention involves no medical, pharmacological or surgical processes – the original researchers are trialling the intervention in a care home in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

New Scientist (2 February 2019) reported that a landmark study had concluded that bacteria involved in gum disease could be part of the cause of Alzheimer’s Disease in humans.  This offers exciting new possibilities for research and even the development of preventative and therapeutic interventions.  It also offers an intriguing potential link between the studies that led us to develop this app and  this new work.  Microglial cells, the non-neuronal cells in the brain that seem to have increased in the mouse studies using gamma wave stimuli, ‘act as the first and main form of active immune defense in the central nervous system’.  So the stimulation of microglial activity might affect Alzheimer’s Disease via attacking the bacteria that seem to be part of the cause – and any effect on amyloid plaques is of secondary importance.  We just don’t know; more research is needed and our app can play a small part in that.