Can deep brain stimulation help treat Alzheimer’s disease?

Credit: Unsplash+

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that primarily affects memory and cognitive function.

As the disease advances, it can devastate an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks and maintain independence.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, innovative treatments are continually being explored to slow its progression and alleviate symptoms.

One such cutting-edge approach is deep brain stimulation (DBS), a technique traditionally used in Parkinson’s disease but now being studied for its potential benefits in Alzheimer’s. This review explains how DBS works and examines the research supporting its use in Alzheimer’s patients.

What is Deep Brain Stimulation?

Deep brain stimulation involves implanting electrodes in specific areas of the brain. These electrodes are connected to a generator implanted in the chest that sends electrical impulses to the brain.

The impulses can help regulate abnormal impulses or affect certain cells and chemicals within the brain. In Parkinson’s disease, for example, DBS is used to reduce symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and difficulty walking.

The theory behind using DBS for Alzheimer’s is that stimulating certain brain areas might improve cognitive function and slow disease progression.

Research on DBS in Alzheimer’s

The exploration of DBS for Alzheimer’s is still in its early stages, with most studies being small and experimental. However, the findings so far have been promising.

For instance, a pivotal study published in the Journal of Neurology demonstrated that DBS targeting the fornix (a part of the brain involved in memory formation and retrieval) showed potential in increasing brain activity in areas affected by Alzheimer’s.

This increase in activity was associated with slower cognitive decline in some patients.

Another research trial noted improvements in quality of life and cognitive function in patients with mild Alzheimer’s who underwent DBS therapy.

These patients experienced enhancements in performing daily activities and maintaining their cognitive functions longer than typically expected in the disease’s natural progression.

How DBS Could Help Alzheimer’s Patients

DBS might help manage Alzheimer’s symptoms in several ways:

  1. Enhancing Neural Activity: By stimulating the brain, DBS may enhance the activity of neural circuits that are dormant or underactive in Alzheimer’s patients.
  2. Modifying Disease Progression: Early evidence suggests that DBS could modify the course of Alzheimer’s by impacting how brain networks deteriorate over time.
  3. Improving Quality of Life: Even slight improvements in cognitive function or a slowing of decline can significantly affect patients’ quality of life, making daily activities more manageable and less frustrating.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite its potential, DBS for Alzheimer’s faces several challenges and considerations:

  • Surgical Risks: DBS is an invasive procedure that involves surgery. There are risks associated with the surgery itself, the implantation of the device, and potential side effects, such as infection or bleeding in the brain.
  • Selection of Candidates: Determining which patients are likely to benefit from DBS is challenging. The therapy might be more effective for some types of Alzheimer’s or at different stages of the disease.
  • Cost and Accessibility: DBS is an expensive treatment and not widely available. It requires specialized equipment and skilled professionals to perform and monitor the therapy.

While still experimental, deep brain stimulation presents a novel approach to managing Alzheimer’s disease, offering hope for improved cognitive function and quality of life.

As research progresses, this technique could become a vital part of the treatment arsenal against Alzheimer’s, providing an alternative for patients who do not respond to traditional therapies.

However, more comprehensive studies and long-term data are needed to fully understand its benefits and limitations. For now, DBS represents a promising frontier in the ongoing battle against Alzheimer’s disease.

If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and Oral cannabis extract may help reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and results showing flavonoid-rich foods could improve survival in Parkinson’s disease.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.