Deep brain stimulation tested in the US


A pacemaker-like device has been surgically implanted into the brain of a patient in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The device provides deep brain stimulation and has been used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease.

It is hoped that the device will help boost memory and reverse cognitive decline.

Electrical charges to the brain

Instead of focusing on drug treatment, this strategy focuses on the use of low-voltage electrical charges delivered directly to the brain. Six Canadians participated in a similar study in 2010. Researchers found improvement in several key markers of the disease. As many as 40 patients with early stage Alzheimer’s will be part of this Johns Hopkins study.

Focus away from drug therapies

“Recent failures in Alzheimer’s disease trials using drugs such as those designed to reduce the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in the brain have sharpened the need for alternative strategies,” said Paul B. Rosenberg, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and site director of the trial’s Johns Hopkins location.

“This is a very different approach, whereby we are trying to enhance the function of the brain mechanically. It’s a whole new avenue for potential treatment for a disease becoming all the more common with the aging of the population.”

Electrical impulses directly stimulate the brain

An electrical device is implanted into the brain and delivers tiny electrical impulses 130 times a second. The current is not felt by the patient. The stimulation is received by the fornix, a region of the brain associated with learning and where memories are made.

Potential new treatment for Alzheimer's

“We are very excited about the possibility of this potentially new way to treat Alzheimer’s,” said Constantine G. Lyketsos, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center in Baltimore.

While the technique might be new for Alzheimer’s, it’s not new for Parkinson’s disease. The deep brain stimulation has been in use for more than 15 years treating patients with Parkinson’s.

Sources: MedicalNewsToday, Johns Hopkins Medicine

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