In the fight against Alzheimer’s, a groundbreaking initiative by startup Cognito Therapeutics is paving the way for a drug-free solution to combat cognitive decline. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company is spearheading the development of a headset, named Spectris, designed to tackle the devastating effects of memory loss associated with the disease.

Results from a Phase II trial, published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology on March 6, indicate promising outcomes. The study demonstrates the safety of Cognito’s novel treatment and suggests early indications of potential benefits for Alzheimer’s patients.

The Spectris device operates by delivering flashing lights and sounds through connected glasses and headphones, stimulating gamma waves in the brain. These fast-frequency brain waves are crucial for thinking skills and memory, areas notably affected in Alzheimer’s patients.

In a study involving 74 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, those receiving Cognito stimulation showed remarkable results compared to a placebo group. They exhibited a significant slowing in functional decline, cognitive difficulties, and even brain atrophy.

This approach, pioneered by Cognito, is rooted in research by MIT neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai. Previous findings showcased the efficacy of stimulating mice with light and sound at 40 hertz, improving memory tasks and reducing amyloid levels—a protein associated with Alzheimer’s pathology.

While the reduction of amyloid plaques was not observed in brain scans of trial participants, the Cognito trial focused on a different type of amyloid not detectable by conventional methods. This highlights the potential of Cognito’s treatment to address a broader spectrum of Alzheimer’s-related pathology.

Despite the promising results, Christopher Weber of the Alzheimer’s Association stresses the need for further studies with larger cohorts to fully understand the therapeutic potential of gamma wave stimulation.

Moving forward, Cognito is embarking on a Phase III trial involving over 500 participants, aiming to validate the efficacy of its device over a 12-month period. Dr. Ralph Kern, Cognito’s chief medical officer, envisions the Spectris headset as a standalone therapy or a complementary treatment alongside emerging Alzheimer’s drugs.

The significance of Cognito’s approach lies not only in its effectiveness but also in its safety profile. Unlike existing antibody treatments for Alzheimer’s, which carry risks of adverse effects such as brain swelling, Cognito’s therapy appears to be well-tolerated, offering hope for a safer and more accessible treatment option.

Dr. Doraiswamy of Duke University underscores the importance of consistent positive outcomes in larger trials, emphasizing the urgent need for innovative and accessible treatments in the battle against Alzheimer’s. With Cognito’s pioneering efforts, a brighter future for Alzheimer’s patients may be on the horizon.

Article written by Emily Mullin