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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Brain Stimulation Shows Promise Against Alzheimer's

German pilot study found four of six patients kept, improved their memories one year later


The German study didn't compare the treated patients to a "control" group of other patients with Alzheimer's who didn't undergo deep brain stimulation, making it difficult to know if the treatment actually had any effect.

The researchers reported there were no severe side effects from the brain stimulation itself, although the devices malfunctioned in two patients, requiring them to undergo surgeries to implant the electrodes again.

The German researchers report that they've received funding from various drug and medical device companies, and one co-author reports co-holding patents on a type of brain stimulation and being a shareholder of a company that plans to develop new stimulators.

Last week, the Functional Neuromodulation group announced that their new research project has enrolled its 42 patients. Some of the patients will undergo stimulation of a part of the brain linked to memory; the others will have a device implanted but it will not be turned on.

The idea is to help a brain "circuit" work properly again, Brown University's Salloway explained. The treatment may even coax the creation of new neurons and connections in the brain.

As for cost, Salloway said Medicare covers brain stimulation for Parkinson's patients. "The biggest cost is the surgery for the implantation," he said. "Then there would be ongoing care, but hopefully the person doesn't need a lot of care and maintenance."

Osorio pointed out that deep brain stimulation is "not the therapy of choice" for Parkinson's disease, and is only used in select cases. He predicted that brain stimulation will be a second or third "therapy of choice" for Alzheimer's if it's even shown to work since it requires surgery to implant the electrodes.

The new German study appears in the May 6 online edition of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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