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Damage from Alzheimer’s disease reversed


Deep brain stimulation may not only stall the progress of Alzheimer’s, it may repair some of the damage. Applying electrical impulses directly to targeted areas of the brain may also improve cognitive function and memory. Dr. Andres Lozano and his team at Toronto western Hospital in Ontario, Canada have recently published the results of their small study on patients with early signs of the disease.

Deep brain stimulation was applied to the fornix, a part of the brain that sends messages to and from the hippocampus, one of the first areas of the brain to shrink because of Alzheimer’s. The hippocampus is the administrative of the brain. It encodes short term memory into long term memory. Symptoms of the disease, like disorientation and memory failure, are a result of damage in this area of the brain.

Lozano said that they expect to see the hippocampus of an Alzheimer’s patient shrink about 5% a year. After a year of deep brain stimulation for the study, four of the participants experienced normal shrinkage, but the other two had completely unexpected regrowth of the hippocampus. One by 5% and the other by 8%. They had improved cognitive function and memory use.

Lozano told the BBC, “How big a deal is 8%? It is huge. . . It was an amazing find for all of us.”

Researchers don’t know why or how it happened. It may be that the electrodes stimulate the generation of new brain cells or triggers the production of proteins that stimulate the formation of new connection between neurons.

The team will move ahead with a larger study, utilized 50 patients with Alzheimer’s.

Deep brain stimulation is used with some success to treat Parkinson’s disease. Over 90,000 patients worldwide use the treatment.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Annals of Neurology

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