London, January 26 : University of Sunderland scientists are planning to test an experimental helmet as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers believe that the low levels of infrared light delivered by such helmets may stimulate the growth of brain cells.
Experiments involving mice have shown that it improved learning ability, and a study on around a 100 human subjects is scheduled to start this summer.
The infrared therapy was first developed to treat cold sores.
Infrared lasers were used in previous studies involving people suffering from dementia, wherein eight out of nine subjects showed some improvement in their conditions.
However, Dr Gordon Dougal, the director of a County Durham-based medical research company called Virulite, had to develop a helmet to safely deliver the treatment through the scalp.
The helmet bathes the brain in low levels of infra-red light, and would only need to be worn for 10 minutes a day.
Dr Dougal says that cells lose the ability to repair and regenerate themselves as they age, and this in the brain leads to loss of memory.
"Currently all you can do with dementia is to slow down the rate of decay - this new process will not only stop that rate of decay but partially reverse it," he said.
His infra-red helmet has been hailed by the Alzheimer's Society, which says that it is a potentially interesting technique.
"A treatment that reverses the effects of dementia rather than just temporarily halting its symptoms could change the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who live with this devastating condition," said the institution.
"We look forward to further research to determine whether it could help improve cognition in humans. Only then can we begin to investigate whether near infra-red could benefit people with dementia," it added.