Toronto researchers have teamed up with four American medical centres in hopes of testing out a new treatment that could potentially reverse or reduce the effects of Alzheimer's disease in patients.
The treatment consists of stimulating the brain through electrodes that are implanted through tiny holes drilled into the skull. Called "brain pacemakers," the electrodes are thought to increase stimulation to the brain. Canadian researchers accidentally discovered the treatment back in 2003 when they, "switched on the electrical jolts in the brain of an obese man and unlocked a flood of old memories." They began to wonder what impact this could have on someone with dementia.
"A healthy brain is a connected brain. One circuit signals another to switch on and retrieve the memories needed to, say, drive a car or cook a meal," the article says.
"At least early in the disease, Alzheimer's kills only certain spots. But the disease's hallmark gunky plaques act as a roadblock, stopping the 'on' switch so that healthy circuits farther away are deactivated, explained Dr. Andres Lozano, a neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital whose research sparked the interest."
The Toronto researches have teamed up with John Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Florida, and Arizona's Banner Health System to test the treatment in 40 patients. "Half will have their electrodes turned on two weeks after the operation and the rest in a year, an attempt to spot any placebo effect from surgery."
In the article, patient Kathy Stanford describes how she felt good after the surgery. She attributes occasional tingling to the electrodes, which are triggered by a batter-powered generator near her collarbone.
Her father Joe Jester, 78, explained the reality of the situation bluntly. "What's our choice? To participate in a program or sit here and watch her slowly deteriorate?"
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Original Source: Herald Sun