Pacemaker for Alzheimer’s?

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Over the past six months, we’ve shared several posts on Alzheimer’s disease.

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In June 2017, we discussed the alarming news that the cases of Alzheimer’s had increased by 83% over the past 15 years. Part of this could be due to the fact that more people are living longer and also to other factors that we are exposed to, but not yet fully known.

In September 2017, we discussed some of the major causes of Alzheimer’s, which surprised many in the medical field. A study found that a specific virus and two specific types of bacteria – are major causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.

In December 2017, we shared a frightening post that suggests that the number of people being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will more than double in the near future. Partially due to better methods of diagnosing and again, due to more people living longer.

So, what kind of hope is there for people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?

A number of medications are being used to slow the effects of Alzheimer’s, but sadly, there still is no cure. Many researchers are actively working on trying to find a cure or how best to treat Alzheimer’s and we need to hope and pray that a cure can be found soon, for the sake of millions.

In addition to medications, some experts recommend mental exercises to help keep the brain alert as long as possible, but there is a new treatment that offers hope in slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s and the idea is shocking to some.

Most of us are familiar with pacemakers used for heart problems and some are used to help control epilepsy, but would you believe that a type of pacemaker can help Alzheimer’s patients?

“Implanting a pacemaker-like device in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease could help slow the decline in decision-making and problem-solving skills that’s typically seen in these patients, a new study suggests.”

“The small study involved three patients with Alzheimer’s disease who had a deep-brain-stimulation (DBS) device implanted in their frontal lobe — a part of the brain tied to ‘executive functions,’ which include planning, problem-solving, attention and judgment. The implant, sometimes called a ‘brain pacemaker,’ consists of thin electrical wires connected to a battery pack that sends electrical impulses into the brain.”

“The study — published online today (Jan. 30) in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease — found that after about two years, patients with the DBS implant showed less of a decline in executive functions, compared with a group of similar patients with Alzheimer’s who didn’t receive implants.”

Dr. Douglas Scharre, the director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute, commented:

“We have many memory aides, tools and pharmaceutical treatments to help Alzheimer’s patients with memory, but we don’t have anything to help with improving their judgments, making good decisions, or increasing their ability to selectively focus attention on the task at hand and avoid distractions. These skills are necessary in performing daily tasks such as making the bed, choosing what to eat and having meaningful socializing with friends and family.”

The idea of anything being implanted into a person’s brain is frightening, but if such an implant provides a longer productive life for Alzheimer’s patients it can well justify having wires placed into your brain. Before you get your hopes up, this is just the first of a study on a few patients and will need to be tested on more people before it becomes accessible to more people, but it is promising and offers some hope for the near future.

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