Researchers at the University of Florida recently conducted deep brain stimulation on an Alzheimer’s disease patient as part of a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of the procedure on the disease.
The clinical trial will evaluate whether using electrodes to stimulate a part of the brain called the fornix can slow memory decline and improve cognitive function in patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The goal of treating Alzheimer’s disease with neuromodulation is to try to enhance what patients have and slow down memory loss and the process of the disease so they can have a few more years of good function,” said Michael Okun, M.D., co-director of the UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. “This is a potentially exciting symptomatic therapy.”
Deep brain stimulation is used to treat a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and Tourette syndrome. In the procedure, researchers carefully place electrodes in specific regions of the brain. When the electrodes are turned on they send electrical signals that prompt a therapeutic response.
Researchers found that stimulating the fornix portion of the brain provoked vivid memories in patients.
Aside from testing the effectiveness of the therapy, researchers are also examining how the stimulation affects the course of Alzheimer’s disease and whether it prompts changes in oxygen, in glucose levels and blood flow.
“What we have seen so far is there are very interesting changes in blood flow,” Okun said. “It’s very early and it is hard to judge these things just on pictures but the pictures look very interesting. There is definitely something going on in the circuit.”