Doctors implant first 'brain pacemaker' to treat Alzheimer's

For heart patients, signing up to implant a pacemaker in your chest isn't casual choice. Nevertheless, the technology has saved numerous lives over the years. This week a new development was unveiled that uses a similar device to treat to Alzheimer's patients with what's essentially a pacemaker for the brain.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have announced the first successful implantation of a pacemaker-like device that delivers deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a means for reversing cognitive degeneration and memory loss caused by Alzheimer's. The treatment is more commonly used on patients suffering from Parkinson's disease.

During the surgery, doctors implant an Activa PC Neurostimulator into the chest of the patient, which is connected by tiny wires called "leads" to the patient's brain through holes in their skull. The device then delivers tiny electrical pulses (130 every second) to the hippocampus, where memories are created and where the earliest symptoms of Alzheimers appear to arise, to help keep things stable.

In a statement announcing the breakthrough this week, Johns Hopkins professor Paul B. Rosenberg said:

"Recent failures in Alzheimer's disease trials using drugs such as those designed to reduce the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in the brain have sharpened the need for alternative strategies. 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."

At least 40 additional patients are expected to undergo the implant surgery over the course of the next year as part of a clinical trial to determine how effective the treatment really is.

Via Johns Hopkins

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