A hope comes for patients with memory-robbing diseases including Alzheimer’s as research has shown that sending an electrical jolt to a part of the brain greatly improves people’s ability to learn and remember. The trail testing conducted at UCLA involved seven patients with epilepsy. The deep brain simulation helped all seven patients or subjects to improve faster including the ones who suffered from memory impairment. It is realized that subjects were not undergoing a treatment but actually they were being prepared for the surgery.
Experts also said that since the treatment improved the condition of patients without dementia, the study may open a debate over the ethics of boosting mental capacities of people in perfect cognitive health. According to a study conducted on animals deep brain simulation enhanced activity in brain’s memory and also stimulated the growth of new brain cells when those regions were damaged. Now in view of the fact that same technique improved condition in humans it may prove to be helpful in blocking or reversing the damage of brain cells in patients with Alzheimer’s.
In deep brain simulation the guide wires are inserted through the skull into the brain where they impart electrical jolts to neurons that do not function properly. It is widely used in Parkinson’s disease. About 90,000 Americans have successfully implanted battery powered devices in their brains. This technique is also used in the treatment of epilepsy by causing seizure through storm of electrical current delivered in the brain.
The aim of the study on seven subjects was to find out whether stimulation to two key memory regions of the brain would improve cognition. The patients had electrodes placed in their brains and their heads immobilized; they played a virtual taxi driver game that involved driving through imaginary town and landscapes. It was found that the subjects opted way to stores that were on an average 64% shorter when entorhinal cortex was stimulated. Unlike some subjects others showed improvement in their performance when electrodes delivered directly to the hippocampus.
Itzhak Fried, a UCLA neurosurgeon who was also an important part of the study said hippocampus as the master organ of the memory. He added that improvements seen in memory of patients who got stimulation to entorhinal region suggests a new target for treating memory loss. But it would be too early now to take this technique as the treatment for Alzheimer’s disease as there were certain drawbacks too in the study like small size, non-uniform level of memory impairment and tests did not measure memory of faces, words and places.