Deep brain stimulation may improve memory in Alzheimer's patients

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A pilot study reports deep brain stimulation targeted at the nucleus basalis of Meynert improved or stabilized memory in Alzheimer's patients.

Deep brain stimulation may improve memory in Alzheimer's patients
Deep brain stimulation may improve memory in Alzheimer's patients

HealthDay News -- Four out of six Alzheimer's patients who underwent deep brain stimulation (DBS) to improve memory had favorable outcomes, according to early-stage research published in Molecular Psychiatry.

After researchers tested DBS on six patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease, the memory skills of four patients stayed stable, or improved, while the memory declined in two others, reported Jens Kuhn and researchers.

Researchers targeted the nucleus basalis of Meynert. Cholinergic neurons of the medial forebrain are considered important contributors to brain plasticity and neuromodulation. A reduction of cholinergic innervation can lead to pathophysiological changes of neurotransmission, an occurrence observed in Alzheimer's disease patients.

Despite observed improvements in memory, patients were not compared to a control group of other Alzheimer's patients who did not undergo DBS, making it difficult to determine if the DBS treatment had an effect. There were no severe side effects from the DBS itself, although the devices malfunctioned in two patients, requirement them to undergo surgeries to re-implant the electrodes.

“Taking into account all limitations of a pilot study,” wrote the researchers, “we conclude that DBS of the NBM is both technically feasible and well tolerated.”

References

  1. Kuhn J et al. Molecular Psychiatry. 2014; doi: 10.1038/mp.2014.32

Dislcosures

The researchers report that they've received funding from various drug and medical device companies; one coauthor reports coholding patents on a type of brain stimulation and being a shareholder of a company that plans to develop new stimulators.

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