Researchers are testing a potential new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. It involves electrically stimulating the brain to see if it can at least help slow the progression of the disease.
For 65 years, Lavonne and Tom Moore have been inseparable. But, when Lavonne became increasingly forgetful, their doctor confirmed their worst fears. He diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease.
Then, they met Doctor Douglas Scharre who enrolled Lavonne in a study at the Ohio State University Wexner. Unlike most Alzheimer’s treatments, it wasn’t focused on improving memory, but on helping patients continue to function.
“We don’t have a lot to treat with problem solving, making the right decision, using good judgment, you know, planning skills,” Dr. Scharre explained.
So, in a medical first for Alzheimer’s treatment, wires were surgically implanted into patients’ frontal lobes, the region of the brain responsible for decision-making and memory functions.
A battery pack in their chest sends electrical currents through the wires in a process called deep brain stimulation. The results were encouraging. Dr. Scharre said, “They had increased focus, increased attention.”
The study found symptoms progressed more slowly in all three patients who received deep brain stimulation. Two of the three, including Lavonne, regressed significantly slower than a typical Alzheimer’s patient in a matched comparison group.Three and a half years later she’s still able to play her favorite hymns.
Researchers say they’re also exploring non-surgical ways such as focused ultrasound to stimulate the frontal lobe to slow down symptoms of Alzheimer’s