Ohio State researchers find pacemaker-like device reduces Alzheimer’s effects

Amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease
Ohio State researchers say deep brain stimulation can slow the decline of problem-solving and decision-making skills in Alzheimer’s patients.

Researchers at Ohio State University say deep brain stimulation (DBS) from a device similar to a cardiac pacemaker can slow the decline of problem-solving and decision-making skills in Alzheimer’s patients.

In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the researchers said they implanted thin electrical wires into the frontal lobes of patients with Alzheimer’s disease to see if using a brain pacemaker could improve cognitive, behavioral and functional abilities in patients with this form of dementia.

They found that using DBS to target the frontal brain regions can reduce the overall performance decline typically seen in people with mild or early-stage Alzheimer’s. The disease affects more than 5 million people in the U.S. That number is expected to rise to as many as 16 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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“The frontal lobes are responsible for our abilities to solve problems, organize and plan, and utilize good judgments,” Douglas Scharre, M.D., co-author of the study and director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute, told the Ohio State News. “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 said they will next look at nonsurgical methods to stimulate the frontal lobe, which would be a less invasive treatment option to slow down the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

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