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Deep Brain Stimulation Studied for Alzheimer's
Date:8/14/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- In an extremely small, early trial, deep brain stimulation appeared to improve memory slightly in several patients with mild Alzheimer's disease.

The authors caution that the findings are very preliminary and that "no clear clinical benefit can be claimed" from the study. However, test results and brain imaging suggest that the procedure may one day hold some promise for the incurable illness, experts said.

"We don't want to overinterpret the results and I agree with the cautions on the one hand, but on the other hand the fact that the PET-scanning data looks so good seems pretty exciting to me," said Dr. Richard Lipton, an attending neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City and principal investigator of the Einstein Aging Study who was not involved in the deep brain stimulation research.

"Alzheimer's is not a disorder where you break even. It's a disorder where you decline . . . This is not the natural history of Alzheimer's. A successful treatment will leave you one year later where you were when you started," he added.

Deep brain stimulation is already used for people with other neurodegenerative diseases, most notably Parkinson's.

The way the Alzheimer's research came into being was a study in serendipity. In 2003, the same research group was working in a different area: using deep brain stimulation in an attempt to control appetite in an obese patient. The results had an unexpected benefit.

"We tested implanting an electrode in the areas of the brain that controlled appetite while [he was] awake," said Dr. Andres M. Lozano, senior author of a paper appearing in the Annals of Neurology. "While we were inserting the electrodes and turning them on, to our surprise, we were able to unlock some memories of events that happened over 30 years ago in this particular man."

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