Is Deep Brain Stimulation the Alzheimer’s Answer?

English: A healthy brain compared to a brain s...
English: A healthy brain compared to a brain suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Doctors have implanted pacemakers into the brains of Alzheimer’s patients in a new experimental treatment at Johns Hopkins.

The procedure is a deep brain stimulation and is very similar to treatments already being practiced on Parkinson’s patients.

Holes are drilled into the skull and wires are attached  into the fornix of the brain.  The fornix is your brain’s main highway which brings information to your learning and memory center, the hippocampus.

The wires are attached to the device which stimulates the brain with electrical impulses at a rate of 130 times a second.  This mild electrical current can not be felt by the patient.


Right now, patients undergoing the revolutionary treatment are subjects in a study.  They have been carefully chosen and are in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s.  What is important to note is they still have their minds and the ability to decide if they want to be a part of the study or not.  Their disease is not so advanced that they are not aware of what is going on.

The devices will be turned on two weeks after implantation for half of the participants.  The other half will be turned on one year later.  Doctors will not be told which patients fall into which group.

I think this is significant because the treatment has already had some success with Parkinson’s patients.  80,000 patients have had the similar procedure for Parkinson’s over the last fifteen years so there is somewhat of a track record.  Question is, will it work for Alzheimer’s?

We won’t know for a while until the study, which is somewhat complicated, is completed.   What we do know is that we’d better be finding a cure for Alzheimer’s fast since there sill be 11 to 16 millions Alzheimer’s patients by 2050.  That’s only 38 years from now.

Here’s more about the John Hopkins Alzheimer’s Deep Brain Stimulation Study.

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