Deep Brain Stimulation Overview
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been known to help patients suffering from chronic pain, cluster headaches and Parkinson’s disease (PD) over the past many years. The procedure for DBS is done by surgically implanting electrodes into the area of the brain where stimulation is intended. With DBS, many patients were able to find relief from many of their symptoms.
In 2008, neurosurgeons from Canada, used DBS to treat an obese 50-year-old man to stimulate his hypothalamus, which is the area for appetite control. Doctors were surprised to find that when his brain was being stimulated, the man experienced seeing scenes from his past very clearly. They further explored their findings and gave the man memory tests, several weeks later and after one year. His memory tests showed that he performed better in these tests, although his results are not as high when the electrodes were turned off. His test results were deemed very important as they implied that the brain can be stimulated to improve one’s memory. Many scientists launched researches to study the relationship between deep brain stimulation and Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies are also ongoing to tests for DBS effects on patients with depression.
In the US and Canada alone, about 5 million people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. This is a debilitating disease that robs an individual of his memories and ability to function normally. Patients gradually develop the disease over many years, starting from simple forgetfulness, to frequent memory lapses and inability to perform menial tasks, and then to complete disregard of one’s self and his environment. Taking care of a parent or a family member with Alzheimer’s disease is often challenging, not only for his family but also for the medical team. This is why scientists continue to explore ways of treatment to prevent its occurrence, stop its progression, and maybe, cure the disease. There are also several testing methods to detect the presence of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages so patients are managed earlier.
Current Researches on Deep Brain Stimulation and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s patients have declined ability to remember general facts. Studies in animals and humans have shown that the fornix, a region in the brain, is responsible for remembering these types of memory. Scientists are currently doing research on fornix DBS and its effects on the memory of participating Alzheimer’s patients.
Another method referred to as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, has been found to improve the language performance of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This is another technique done to stimulate the brain, and is non-invasive. It involves sending magnetic pulses in rapid succession to the brain of the participants. Results from the study, which appeared in the June 2010, online issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, proved promising.
BMJ-British Medical Journal (2010, June 25). Brain stimulation technique boosts language ability in Alzheimer’s patients. ScienceDaily.
Clinicaltrials.gov: Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for Alzheimer’s Disease
BBC News: Deep Stimulation Boosts Memory