A pacemaker device surgically implanted in the brain is showing promise as a treatment for early or mild Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials of electrical stimulation to the brains of those suffering with dementia are underway at John’s Hopkins University and four other facilities in North America and will continue through 2013.
Medical researchers are prioritizing alternative treatment approaches in part because various pharmaceutical drugs have failed to slow cognitive decline in those with this illness. Moreover, the clock is ticking; by 2050, some two billion people across the world may be diagnosed with dementia.
MIT Technology Review explains that in treating those patients suffering with the effects of Alzheimer’s, electrodes are inserted in the region of the brain involved with learning and memory. So far, the protocol has shown some promise on a preliminary basis:
“The treatment has so far been tested in an already completed pilot study with six patients with Alzheimer’s. After a year of constant stimulation, the brains of these patients showed slightly increased glucose consumption in PET scans—a sign of increased neuron activity—in areas in the brain involved in learning and memory. Typically in Alzheimer’s patients, glucose metabolism decreases in the brain regions involved in memory, says Constantine Lyketsos director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center and co-chair of the new trial.”
Dr. Paul Rosenberg of Johns Hopkins summarized this new therapy according to UPI:
“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.”
Dr. Rosenberg recently appeared on CBS This Morning to discuss the brain pacemaker treatment: