Deep Brain Stimulation For Alzheimer’s


DALLAS, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that number is projected to be 13 million.  Although there are several drugs to treat the symptoms, there’s only one FDA-approved medication to slow the progression. Now, there’s a new treatment that’s not a drug,  sparking discussion that could slow or halt the progression of this devastating disease. Deep Brain Stimulation

One in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s no cure but researchers are hoping that electricity may help stop it at the earliest stages.

“By increasing the flow of information, in that track, we might improve the ability of a person to retain new information,” explains UT Health San Antonio neurologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Gabriel de Erausquin.

(Read Full Interview)

Researchers are targeting the fornix – a part of the brain responsible for memory – with deep brain stimulation, sending electrical impulses to targeted areas.

UT Health San Antonio neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander Papanastassiou says, “The electrodes go down into the brain near the fornix. Then, you tunnel the wires underneath the skin, behind the ear and underneath the skin down the neck, down to the chest wall. And then, we have a little battery pack there. It’s a lot like a pacemaker.”

“The patient is awake, and we are asking them questions,” Dr. de Erausquin mentions.

A San Antonio woman in her 70’s was one of the first in the world to receive DBS. On the operating table she suddenly started talking about a long-lost memory.

Dr. de Erausquin recalls, “She was suddenly flattered by a memory of her sister and her playing on the beach.”

During two years of stimulation, researchers proved DBS is safe for Alzheimer’s patients and the disease did not progress in most of the patients.

“Twenty-four months without worsening is quite good. It’s better than anything we have right now,” Dr. de Erausquin emphasizes.

There are 27 sites worldwide testing DBS for treating Alzheimer’s patients. Eighteen are in the U.S. The study doesn’t aim to reverse the disease progression, that’s why it’s important to do this treatment in the early stages of the disease. DBS is currently used to treat patients with Parkinson’s, seizures, and depression.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to atrophy and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently. It is estimated that there are approximately 44 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. In the U.S., an estimated 5.5 million people of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. Of these, around 5.3 million are 65 and older and 200,000 are younger and have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. About two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women. This equals 3.3 million women, age 65 and older having Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. and two million men.


DIAGNOSING: The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease progress slowly over several years. Sometimes these symptoms are confused with other conditions and may initially be assumed to be normal symptoms of aging. Generally, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are divided into three main stages. In the early stages, the main symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory lapses. In the middle-stage, someone with the condition may find it increasingly difficult to remember the names of people they know and may struggle to recognize their family and friends. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms become increasingly severe and can be distressing for the person with the condition, as well as their caregivers, friends, and family. Hallucinations and delusions may come and go over the course of the illness but can get worse as the condition progresses.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: The largest international trial to date will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in patients over 65 years old with mild probable Alzheimer’s, and it will test the hypothesis that DBS will slow cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s. The DBS procedure has provided therapeutic benefits for otherwise treatment-resistant movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. The delicate procedure involves placing one or two electrodes into the brain, which are connected to a neurostimulator placed under the skin – a “pacemaker” for the brain. The neurostimulator can be programmed to deliver an electrical current to select brain regions. The pivotal trial, conducted by Functional Neuromodulation using Boston Scientific Vercise™ Directional System, aims to enroll up to 210 patients at 20 research sites in the U.S., Canada, and Germany.



Will Sansom

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Doctors Alexander Papanastassiou, MD, neurosurgeon and Gabriel de Erausquin, MD, PhD, neurologist, and psychiatrist

Read the entire Q&A