Disorganization of circadian rhythms, a hallmark of aging, may be related causally to the progressive deterioration of memory functions in senescence and possibly Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In experimental animals, disruption of circadian rhythms produces retrograde amnesia by interfering with the circadian organization of memory processes. The circadian system is known to be synchronized to external 24 h periodicities of ambient light by a neural pathway extending from the retina to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus. There is also evidence that the earth’s magnetic field is a time cue (“Zeitgeber”) of circadian organization and that shielding of the ambient magnetic field leads to disorganization of the circadian rhythms in humans. Since aging is associated with a delay of the circadian rhythm phase, and since light, which phase advances circadian rhythms, mimics the effects of magnetic fields on melatonin secretion, we postulate that application of magnetic fields might improve memory functions in the elderly as a result of resynchronization of the circadian rhythms. Moreover, since the circadian rhythm organization is more severely disrupted in patients with AD, it is possible that magnetic treatment might prove useful also in improving memory functions in these patients. If successful, application of magnetic fieldsmight open new avenues in the management of memory disturbances in the elderly and possibly in AD.
nt J Neurosci. 1991 Aug;59(4):259-62.
Sandyk R, Anninos PA, Tsagas N.
Department of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY 10461.