`Brain pacemakers` may help in fight against Alzheimer`s
Washington: The first U.S. experiments with brain pacemakers for Alzheimer`s are getting under way, in which researchers are looking beyond drugs to implants in the hunt for much-needed new treatments.
The research is in its infancy and only a few dozen people with early-stage Alzheimer`s will be implanted in a handful of hospitals.
No one knows if it might work, and if it does, how long the effects might last.
Kathy Sanford was among the first to sign up, Fox News reported.
The Ohio woman`s early-stage Alzheimer`s was gradually getting worse. She still lived independently; posting reminders to herself, but no longer could work. The usual medicines weren`t helping.
Then doctors at Ohio State University explained the hope - that constant electrical stimulation of brain circuits involved in memory and thinking might keep those neural networks active for longer, essentially bypassing some of dementia`s damage.
Sanford decided it was worth a shot and a few months after the five-hour operation, the hair shaved for her brain surgery was growing back and Sanford said she felt good, with an occasional tingling that she attributes to the electrodes.
A battery-powered generator near her collarbone powers them, sending the tiny shocks up her neck and into her brain.
It`s too soon to know how she`ll fare, and scientists will track her for two years.
The new approach is called deep brain stimulation, or DBS. While it won`t attack the root cause of Alzheimer`s either, "maybe we can make the brain work better," Ohio State neurologist Dr. Douglas Scharre said.
The continuous jolts quiet overactive nerve cells, with few side effects. Scientists also are testing whether stimulating other parts of the brain might help lift depression or curb appetite among the obese.