Alzheimer's brain 'pacemaker' slows decline of disease

A woman suffering from Alzheimer's desease holds the hand of a relative

Ultimately, tackling Alzheimer's will require multiple components, including preventive measures and medications, as well as approaches such as surgically implanted devices that stimulate multiple parts of the brain, he said. The first stages of this disease can be seen as "tangles" in the brain; these are detected in ten percent of people in their 20s, and 50 percent of people in their 50s, some decades before symptoms start becoming obvious.

But Dr Doug Brown of the Alzheimer's Society said: "This study showed that DBS is likely to be safe for people with Alzheimer's disease but as the study only involved three people who showed varying degrees of improvement, it may not work for everyone in practice". Many neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's, are caused by disrupted communication among neurons that results in the case of Alzheimer's in loss of function and cell death.

When comparing people who eat meat more than four times a week with people who haven't eaten meat for 30 years, the risk of developing dementia is more than three times lower among non-meat-eaters.

He added: "Subjects' cognitive and daily functional abilities as a whole declined more slowly".

"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".

The deep brain stimulation (DBS) implant resembles cardiac pacemaker devices, except the wires are implanted in the brain instead of the heart.

When LaVonne Moore had the implant in 2014, she was unable to prepare a meal.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a technique where wires are implanted into specific areas of the brain to deliver very mild electrical stimulation. Two of the three, including Lavonne, regressed significantly slower than a typical Alzheimer's patient in a matched comparison group.Three and a half years later she's still able to play her favorite hymns.

2011 in a retirement house in Angervilliers eastern France. AFP
Image The treatment may slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease

For 65 years, Lavonne and Tom Moore have been inseparable.

"We have many memory aides, tools and pharmaceutical treatments to help Alzheimer's patients with memory", said Dr Douglas Scharre, co-author of the study and director of Wexner's Division of Cognitive Neurology.

"LaVonne has had Alzheimer's disease longer than anybody I know, and that sounds negative, but it's really a positive thing because it shows that we're doing something right", he said. He said she didn't hesitate to volunteer.

Mrs Moore said: "I will do anything to help others not go through what I'm going through".

The Ohio State team's next step is to try to investigate whether non-surgical methods can be used to target those same brain areas, offering a less invasive model for further research.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of degenerative dementia, affecting an estimated 500,000 Britons and more than five million Americans.

The pacemaker has already been used to reverse cognitive decline in 135,000 people with Parkinson's disease.

The disease - which has no cure and is not easily managed - becomes progressively disabling with loss of memory, cognition and worsening behavioural function in addition to a gradual loss of independence, said Prof Scharre.

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