Brain Pacemaker Can Help Alzheimer’s
A constant research is on to treat and beat Alzheimer’s. A new study was conducted on three patients who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They had a pacemaker named DBS/ Deep Brain Stimulator implanted in the frontal lobe of their brains. The frontal lobe is the front part of the brain which deals with planning, trouble solving, and decision-making powers.
* Alzheimer’s is a disease wherein there is an impaired cognition. Alzheimer’s hampers memory and intellectual skills such that the affected person may not be able to carry out his/ her daily activities. The affected person may not even remember his/ her name.
*Cognition is the ability to understand, assimilate, and relate things.
Credit: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
These pacemakers have slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s in comparison to those who had no implanted pacemaker. This study was the first attempt to examine the effect of DBS on the frontal lobe. The pacemakers are already studied in different parts of the brain. We have used pacemakers to see their effects on the memory. We have many options to improve the memory of those affected by Alzheimer’s. But, we are yet to have some aid to improve the affected person’s executive functions such as focusing on a task and avoid distractions. DNB throws light in this direction.
Brain pacemakers are already used to treat other nerve diseases such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, Parkinson’s, and tremors.
* Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition where a person has repeated thoughts and behaviour that interfere with everyday work. For example, fear of germs or contamination.
*Depression is a state of lack of interest in life so much that it interferes with day to day activities.
*Parkinson’s is a disease wherein there are involuntary tremors, a rigidity which prevents movement, and loss of balance.
DBS helps to prevent the signals which interfere with normal brain functioning or may improve the function of brain cells.
A lady with Alzheimer’s disease went for a pacemaker. She was able to cook a simple meal for herself after two years of implanting a pacemaker, which she couldn’t do earlier. This indicates her Alzheimer’s was improving, whereas it was worsening in the counterparts. When constantly monitored, two out of three patients were also showing a lesser decline in cognitive functions compared to their counterparts who were of same age, the similar level of cognitive impairment but had no DNB.
These pacemakers are connected to the battery and send electrical signals to the brain to help in decision making. However, researchers are yet to come to a conclusion on the exact role of a pacemaker in improving Alzheimer’s.
However, this study was conducted only on few patients and needs to be studied on a larger group says Dr Michael Schulder, vice chairman of neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, who was not involved with the study. DBS pacemaker also needs a surgery for implanting it. More research is on to find out the less invasive ways of controlling and treating Alzheimer’s.
You can find more details about this study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease dated Jan 30th, 2018.
In short, DNB helps in
- Decision making
- Avoiding distractions
Thus, DNB helps in daily chores such as choosing which food to eat, making to bed, and meaningful socialising with friends.