A pilot clinical trial carried out by researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in the US demonstrated that deep brain stimulation (DBS) could slow the decline of problem-solving and decision-making skills in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Claimed to be the first use of DBS for Alzheimer’s, the trial targeted the brain’s behavioural regulation region.
To investigate the effect of a brain pacemaker on cognitive, behavioural, and functional abilities, three patients were surgically implanted with thin electrical wires into the frontal lobes of their brain.
Unlike existing treatments that focus on improving a patient’s memory, the current method aimed at slowing the decline of overall performance and found that all three subjects experienced improvement.
Wexner Medical Center Neurological Institute Cognitive Neurology division director Dr Douglas Scharre said: “We have many memory aids, tools and pharmaceutical treatments to help Alzheimer’s patients with memory, but we don’t have anything to help with improving their judgments, making good decisions, or increasing their ability to selectively focus attention on the task at hand and avoid distractions.
“The frontal lobes are responsible for our abilities to solve problems, organise and plan, and utilise good judgments.
“By stimulating this region of the brain, the Alzheimer’s subjects cognitive and daily functional abilities as a whole declined more slowly than Alzheimer’s patients in a matched comparison group not being treated with DBS.”
The researchers are currently planning to investigate the capability of non-surgical methods in stimulating the frontal lobe, for delivering a less invasive option to slow down Alzheimer’s symptoms.