Brain pacemakers can become a new Alzheimer’s treatment. According to the Associated Press, the method is in its early stages of testing.
The ‘sci-fi’ treatment involves sending mild jolts of electricity to a patient’s brain in hopes of delaying the Alzheimer’s induced memory loss. The method required holes being drilled in the person’s skull so that tiny wires can be implanted in the right spots.
The treatment for the damage this epidemic inflicts is taking a dramatic turn, as scientists are looking for alternatives to drugs methods. The first U.S. experiments with “brain peacemakers” are just starting. Just a few dozen people suffering from early stage Alzheimer’s from a handful of hospitals will receive the treatment. For the time being, no one can say with accuracy if the new method will yield any results or, if so, for how long they will last.
One of the first patients to enlist for the trials was Kathy Sanford from Ohio, who is suffering from early stage Alzheimer’s but is still able to live by herself with the aid of self-posted reminders. She can no longer work though, and the usual medicines were of no help any longer. The doctors from the Ohio State University explained that the constant electrical stimulation of the brain circuits that control memory and thinking could prolong the neural networks normal functions, as such bypassing some of the dementia induced damage.
Sanford underwent a five-hour long operation to have the electrodes put in place and the battery-powered generator attached to her collarbone. The device sends tiny shocks up her neck and into her brain. The patient will be under observation for the next two years to help pinpoint any improvement.
The new method, called deep brain stimulation, won’t deal with the root cause of Alzheimer’s either but, if successful, could prolong the healthy function of the brain. However, implementing electrodes directly in the patient’s brain is not a new thing. Almost 100,000 people world wide use a similar device to control the Parkinson’s disease induced tremors or other movement disorders.
In its early stages the Alzheimer’s only focuses on certain spots, but as the disease progresses it creates road blocks which deactivate healthy circuits father away. What the method tries to do is reactivate the silenced circuits.
It will take years of research and observation to help the scientists reach any conclusions, meanwhile the preliminary evidence is encouraging.