A magic helmet to cure Alzheimer’s disease?

Several readers have e-mailed me this story. It’s about a device developed in the U.K.. Based on near infrared light (NIR), the device, it is claimed by its creator, will be a major step forward for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. He even made some very bold claims that it could not just slow the cognitive decline associated with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease but actually reverse it.

Fortunately, a friend over at Science-Based Medicine has taken the time to separate the hype from the scientific basis behind this device. Suffice it to say that, although it’s not totally scientifically implausible, the reports are clearly more salesmanship than science. It’s possible that this device may be helpful in slowing the loss of neurons due to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s been by no means shown convincingly, even in mouse models. Let’s put it this way: The investigators should go back and do the work necessary to figure out if (1) there really is a mechanism by which NIR could ameliorate damage to neurons and (2) if there’s a shred of real scientific evidence that it actually works in humans before hyping it to the press like this.