There’s good news on several fronts involving the promise of deep brain stimulation as a way to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and improve memory. It’s done by implanting electrodes that send pulses of electricity into the brain's memory system delivering small, rhythmic shocks.
ABC News recently reported on a Canadian study that has shown that deep brain stimulation can reawaken circuits in the brain that lay down memory. People in the clinical trial had two electrodes implanted in the brain, which are connected to a battery implanted in the chest area. The brain is stimulated by these electrical impulses, “sparking” the memory center into activity.
A Canadian man, who was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s, was interviewed for the report. He underwent the procedure about four years ago. The electrodes have been sending more than 100 impulses per second to the memory center in his brain. Brain scans show that the areas in his brain where activity had been dying out before the stimulation are now lighting up with activity, keeping the cognitive decline that is characteristic of Alzheimer’s at bay.
University of California study shows results, as well
Deep brain stimulation has been undergoing trials for many disorders including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). During a study conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles using deep brain stimulation for people with seizure disorders, researchers also saw promise for this technique when used in fighting Alzheimer’s disease.
An article posted last month on the ABC News website reports that this study, too, suggested that “driving electricity deep into the brain can boost memory, shedding light on a mysterious neurological process and opening the door for Alzheimer’s disease treatments.”
According to ABC News, the FDA has given the green light for Johns Hopkins to conduct a larger study than the study done in Canada. The Johns Hopkins study will include 50 people. I don’t know if those 50 people are already chosen, but my guess is that news of this study will generate many applications. As with any new treatment, researchers will have to follow the participants over a period of time to track results. But deep brain stimulation appears to be extremely promising.
ABC News: Deep brain stimulation Canadian study video
ABC News: Deep brain stimulation University of California at Los Angeles article