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Scientists are investigating deep brain stimulation in Alzheimer’s patients

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Scientists are investigating deep brain stimulation in Alzheimer’s patients

Researchers at the University of Florida are leading a study in which they will investigate whether deep brain stimulation can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. AD is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by a progressive deterioration of cognitive functions that affects daily activities. So far, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and drug therapy that currently exists on the market only improves symptoms for a short period, without stopping the evolution of the disease. Therefore, scientists are seeking new therapeutic methods to help Alzheimer’s patients.

Alzheimer's Patient

Alzheimer’s Patient

According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects about 5 million Americans, and it is assumed that the incidence of disease will increase in the future. Alzheimer’s patients have a progressive deterioration of cognitive functions in the absence of systemic or neuropsychiatric diseases that cause dementia. In other words, the disease occurs apparently in healthy patients and it is manifested by forgetfulness, which affects daily activities. One thing worth noting is that Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that progresses gradually, and in the final stages the patients become dependent upon caregivers. Apart from forgetfulness, patients have aphasia (language disorder), agnosia ( not being able to recognize objects, etc.), apraxia (inability to perform motor activities).

There are many theories about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Some believe that this illness is due to storage of amyloid in the brain, others believe that it is due to the accumulation of neurofibrillary tangles. There is also a genetic component that seems to be responsible for early-onset forms of Alzheimer’s, that is before 65. However, no specific treatment of the disease exists and its evolution, once started, can not be stopped.

In the Advance Study, researchers at the University of Florida want to investigate if deep brain stimulation benefits Alzheimer’s patients. In other words they want to see if this intervention can slow disease progression and improve cognitive function in patients with mild Alzheimer’s. The idea of researchers from the University of Florida is not completely new because deep brain stimulation has already been used in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. Deep brain stimulation involves placing electrodes in specific regions of the brain, specifically in the fornix, a region of the brain that connects the hippocampus to the hypothalamus. The researchers said they chose this area because it was found that stimulation of the fornix leads to vivid memories in patients.