Deep brain stimulation may help treat Alzheimer’s disease: Study

With the rising battle against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the condition gripping more and more people across the world, researchers are increasingly focusing on developing innovative ways to tackle the debilitating condition. Recently, a team of neurosurgeons from Toronto Western Hospital attempted to study the potential of deep brain stimulation (DBS) in treating the condition and found it to be safe for patients with early AD.

In their preliminary study, published in July 2016 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the team of researchers, led by Dr. Andres Lozano, suggested that DBS might also help slow down memory loss, which is one of the major outcomes of Alzheimer’s. The study also revealed that the participants who received DBS experienced an increase in cerebral glucose metabolism. However, the positive effects of DBS were observed only in patients in the age group of 65 years or older.

DBS slowed down cognitive decline in patients with mild AD

During the phase I of the same study, the researchers showed that a constant stimulation to the fornix, a bundle of verve cell fibers in the brain’s memory circuit, increased the volume of hippocampal after one year in six patients with AD. In the phase II pilot study, the researchers enrolled 42 patients with mild Alzheimer’s symptoms, of which 12 individuals were under 65 years of age and 30 were aged 65 years and older.

All the patients had DBS system implanted in the fornix on both sides of their brains, and then, stimulation was turned on in half of the patients, while in the remaining participants, it was kept off for one year.

After 12 months of observation, the researchers found that in the group of patients whose DBS system was turned on, cerebral glucose metabolism in key brain areas increased over the first six months, however, this metabolic boost could not be seen after one year. For older patients aged 65 years or more, the treatment seemed to be more beneficial as their cognitive decline slowed down over the year, but in case of patients under 65 years of age, cognitive function deteriorated when the stimulation was put on.

“DBS for AD was safe and associated with increased cerebral glucose metabolism,” said the researchers. “There were no differences in cognitive outcomes for participants as a whole, but participants aged ≥65 years may have derived benefit while there was possible worsening in patients below age 65 years with stimulation,” they added.

Benefits of DBS

DBS is a neurosurgical procedure used to control the activity of dysfunctional brain circuits. It involves implantation of electrodes in certain areas of the brain, thereby, affecting certain cells and chemicals in the brain. While DBS has been found to be effective in treating  a number of disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), major depression and essential tremor, its safety and effectiveness in treating dementia was still unknown.

However, the current study gives hope to patients with Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. According to Dr. Lozano, DBS might benefit Alzheimer’s patients in their earlier stage of the condition.

Recovery road map

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that causes a slow decline in thinking, memory and reasoning skills. Cognitive decline that disrupts a person’s daily life can be a sign of Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia. With a predominance of the disease among older adults, it becomes imperative to seek expert help in order to save their lives from becoming terribly miserable.

If you are noticing any sign of mental deterioration in your loved ones, contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Our experts are well-equipped to provide you the relevant information on mental health illnesses and about the best mental health professionals in your vicinity. You may call us at our helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with our treatment advisors to get instant help on mental health services.