Pioneering 'brain pacemaker' helps Alzheimer's patients slow disease progression

31 January 2018

The use of a pioneering 'brain pacemaker' has been found to help patients slow the progression of Alzheimer's by increasing their focus and attention, according to a study.

All three patients in the study were found to have improved symptoms after the device - similar to a heart pacemaker - was fitted directly into their skulls.

One of the patients can now cook a meal, a simple task which she could not do before the trial, which has given the researchers much encouragement.

LaVonne Moore, 85, from Delaware, Ohio, can also play her favourite hymns on the piano, years after she developed the debilitating condition.

In the procedure, doctors drill holes in the skull and implant thin electrical wires into the frontal lobes of the brains.

Improvement was seen in all patients during the Ohio State University of Deep Brain Stimulation on dementia.

Moore was able to organise an outing, arrange transportation to and from the destination, plan for the weather and bring the required money.

She also regained independence to select her clothing attire, according to the results published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

According to her husband Tom, 89, her Alzheimer's has progressed more slowly than he expected.

According to experts, however, it is not clear whether her deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy is responsible for her independence.

Hundreds of thousands of Parkinson's disease patients have benefited from DBS, but its use in Alzheimer's is still very experimental.

Only a few DBS studies have been done for Alzheimer's and they have focused on stimulating brain regions governing memory, rather than judgment.

However, according to Dr Douglas Scharre and colleagues at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, their approach, which targets the decision-making frontal lobe of the brain, might help patients keep their independence for longer.

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