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Can a Pacemaker in the Brain Slow the Progression of Alzheimer’s?

Massachusetts has an estimated 120,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association believes that number will grow to 140,000 by the year 2025. That is why the news out of Johns Hopkins University is encouraging for caregivers and families.

In December of 2012, surgeons at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine implanted pacemakers in the brains of two people with Alzheimer’s Disease. Over the next year, more than forty patients at Johns Hopkins and four other medical centers will undergo the same procedure.

The trial explores what effect deep electric simulation of the brain has on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The U.S. program developed from a small trial in Canada involving six Alzheimer’s patients. In that study, patients had increased glucose metabolism. Glucose metabolism is an indicator of neuronal activity which decreases with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile, researchers at The Ohio State University are testing Alzheimer’s pacemakers a little differently. Unlike The Johns Hopkins trial, which targets the part of the brain responsible for memory, the Ohio State trial is targeting the area of the brain that controls behavior and cognition. They too are hoping to see how pacemakers in the brain can treat disease.

Brain stimulation is believed to come with only minor risks. Researchers cite infection and minor bleeding as possible side effects.

If you would like to learn more about the study or watch a video you can visit Johns Hopkins Medicine (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/memory_center/research.html). You can also sign up to follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

Are you aware of the research that is being done for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients? Do you know someone experiencing either of these? Please share your own insight in our ‘comments’ section below.

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