Older people who are exposed to low-level infra-red light for just 10 minutes a day show an improvement in their cognitive functions.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2008) — Medical experts in the North-East of England believe they could have found the key to turning back the brain’s biological clock and reverse the effects of dementia and memory loss.

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Lead researcher at the University of Sunderland Dr Abdel Ennaceur and Durham University’s Dr Paul Chazot are pictured with Dr Gordon Dougal and a prototype cognitive helmet. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Sunderland)

Pioneering research at the University of Sunderland has shown that regular exposure to safe low level infra-red light can improve learning performance and kick-start the cognitive function of the brain.

The results are a scientific breakthrough as to date medical treatments for dementia can only slow down brain deterioration and now human trials are to start to see if the treatment could provide a cure to illnesses like Alzheimer’s.

Independent research carried out at Sunderland has demonstrated that low power infra-red (1072nm) can improve the learning performance.

The low levels of infra-red light used are completely safe and occur naturally in sunlight. They are currently being used in innovative new machines for the treatment of cold sores, which have been approved for NHS prescription.

Experts claim that early stage dementia patients should see an improvement in their cognitive function within four weeks, by wearing a lightweight helmet in their home for just ten minutes a day.

Human testing of the ground-breaking infra-red treatment on the brain is due to start this summer and medical experts hope this will halt and even reverse the effects of dementia.

The new infra-red device was created by Dr Gordon Dougal, a director of Virulite – a medical research company based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham – which is also behind the innovative cold sore machine.

He came up with the idea of using a safe level of infra red light on the human brain after it had proved effective in the treatment of cold sores – a process that relies on boosting the cells within the body responsible for killing the virus, rather than attacking it.

Dr Dougal said: “The implications of this research at the University of Sunderland are enormous – so much so that in the future, we could be able to affect and change the rate at which our bodies age.

“As we get older, cells stop repairing themselves and we age because our cells lose the desire to regenerate and repair themselves. This ultimately results in cell death and decline of the organ functions, for the brain resulting in memory decay and deterioration in general intellectual performance.

“But what if there was a technology that told the cells to repair themselves and that technology was something as simple as a specific wavelength of light? Near infrared light penetrates human tissues relatively well, even penetrating the human skull, just as sunlight passes through frosted glass.”

Dr Dougal, who claims that ten minutes of exposure to the infrared light daily would have the desired effect on the brain, added: “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.”

The research by University of Sunderland neuroscientist, Dr Abdel Ennaceur has led Dr Dougal to arrange clinical trials with patients with age related memory problems.”

Fellow neuroscientist Paul Chazot, who helped carry out the research, added: “The treatment can indeed improve learning ability. The results are completely new – this has never been looked at before.

“Dr Dougal’s treatment might have some potential in improving learning in a human situation by delivering infra red through the thinnest parts of the skull to get maximum access to the brain.”

Further research work will continue in this area, funded by CELS, who support Healthcare research and development in universities, hospitals and companies within the North East of England.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Sunderland

By Michael Kassner, January 25, 2008, TechRepublic – The first real-world occurrence of drive-by pharming has finally been observed and substantiated. In reality it was only a matter of time as this type of attack was made public in 2006 as a white paper written by three security researchers associated with the Indiana University School of Informatics. The potential for individual identity theft by any other pharming and phishing attack venue pale in comparison to drive-by pharming. The simplicity by which the attack can be carried out is quite alarming.

How the attack works

All computers have an Internet Protocol (IP) address and a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) that are used to uniquely identify them. Domain Name System (DNS) servers are then used to associate the user-friendly FQDN with the computer-required IP address. The specific DNS servers used for Internet associations are published by the network’s DHCP server—usually integral to the perimeter router—and broadcast for use by the computers on that specific network.

By using computers poisoned with erroneous FQDN/IP address associations provided by hostile DNS servers, it then becomes easy to see how a person could unknowingly be viewing a hostile website that has been developed to mimic the real one. Once at the hostile website, the attack venue becomes similar to most other identity-theft attacks, asking the user to supply personal information.

The new twist

Typical phishing or pharming attacks try to get unsuspecting users to go to hostile website by clicking on links in email or through links in official websites that have been subverted. The attack venues used with drive-by pharming can also be email or websites but with different results. Activating embedded HTML image tags in email or websites normally displays an image, but activating HTML image tags used in drive-by pharming attacks alters the perimeter router’s configuration instead. Specifically, the process changes the IP addresses of the correct DNS servers to IP addresses of hostile DNS servers which then provide incorrect information.

Drive-by pharming is especially deceptive because the decision-making process is removed. Thus making it virtually silent, as the only sign of something wrong is if the hostile website is recognized as an inaccurate representation of the actual website.

Best defense

Unlike most identity-theft attack venues, the defense against drive-by pharming is quite simple. All that is necessary is to change the default password on the router or internet perimeter device that is also acting as the DHCP server. Symantec has a Flash-based animation that does a nice job explaining the attack and how to avoid it. Hopefully this will be one more reason for everyone to change default device configurations.