When Hope & Fear Meet Science

It’s impossible to live without unexpected, unwelcome and unwanted experiences. Life can be scary. Excess fear can extinguish hope and leave us paralyzed to act. Extreme hope can drive out fear and leave us complacent and unmotivated to act. How can we manage a balance between hope and fear when we face frightening realities and how can we leverage science to help us navigate a way forward?

 

In 2016 my wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The news hit us like a freight train. What did this mean? What could I expect to happen? How could I help? Receiving a life-altering diagnosis is never easy for a patient or the people who love them. Some people pray, some people scream, some crawl into a ball and hope it’s just a bad dream. I did all of that and more. And then, when I was able to get my bearings, I did what comes natural to me, I looked to science for a solution. 

What I learned first was frustrating. 

  1. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. There are only 5 FDA approved drugs on the market and none are curative.
  3. The most recent drug came out in 2003.
  4. It takes more than 10 years and $350 M to get a new drug approved.

Researchers at MIT were focusing on light therapy as a treatment for Alzheimer’s — where flickering light shone into the eye induced healthy gamma rhythm in the brain. They discovered that visual stimulation, given one hour a day for three to six weeks, had dramatic positive effects on brain function.

With determination, I kept searching until I found a flicker of hope.

For me this was a eureka moment. Like so many others fighting against the clock with our loved ones facing dementia, I feared too much time had passed and that I might be too late. I called on some colleagues to help develop prototypes of Gamma light lamps just like the ones from the MIT research. We immediately began using them at home. The flickering lamps had notable positive effects on my wife and her doctors asked me where they could get more of them. The benefits combined with their interest led me to create a company and  producing Gamma lights for families like mine, who just can’t wait.

Finding a way forward by leaning on science to balance our unstoppable tendencies of hope and fear is not a new approach. Science has always been the beating heart of industrialization, globalization and economic growth. Scientific research has brought us life-changing innovations like electricity and antibiotics. Yes, it’s science that gets the credit, but hope and fear are powerful motivators.