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Hope for Alzheimer’s- Electric Shock Restores Memory

Posted by Nick Carroll
Wednesday, January 30, 2008 9:51 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Head Injury, Medical Devices

Stimulating the brain electronically seems to stimulate vivid memories. Researchers think it might help Alzheimers patients.

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It was an accidental discovery delivered unintentionally at a Toronto hospital.

When a morbidly obese man was undergoing experimental brain surgery to have his appetite controlled, electrodes were pushed deep into the hypothalamus, thought to control appetite. Then an electric current was applied.

The man began recalling vivid memories of the past 30 years earlier.  He was in a park with friends and his then-girlfriend. He saw colors and thought he was about 20-years-old.   

A pilot study is now underway on deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a sort of pacemaker for the brain to jolt memories long lost. Early predictions are that this could signal a major breakthrough in addressing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“This is a single case that was totally unexpected” says lead researcher Professor Andres Lozano at the Toronto Western Hospital.  The study appears in the Annals of Neurology. 

The memory activity was most intense in an area called the fornix within the limbic system which is involved in emotions and memory and is located next to the hypothalamus.

The patient, a 50-year-old man, began recalling even more when the electric pulses were intensified. After two months of recovery the electrodes were stimulated for three weeks and the man was able to learn more quickly and perform well on memory tests. When the electrodes were not stimulated he did not perform as well on the memory tests.

Researchers admit they know very little about the circuitry of the brain.

Professor Lozano tells the London Times online that this research lends insight into the areas of the brain involved with memory.

It gives us a means of intervening in the way we have already done in Parkinson's and for mood disorders such as depression, and it may have therapeutic benefit in people with memory problems,” he says.

A pilot study is underway on six Alzheimer’s patients who have had the device surgically implanted to see if it offers any benefit.   

DBS is already used to treat Parkinson’s disease and may also be used to treat cluster headaches and aggressive behavior. Side effects can include temporarily, apathy, depression, hallucinations and even compulsive gambling.  #

 


2 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by Scott
Thursday, January 31, 2008 5:31 AM EST

Are you kidding me? If I had electricity being shot into my brain, I would damn well remember anything they wanted to get them to stop!
This is almost as insane as using Leaches as a cure all to clear away tainted blood. Will someone please tell these guys that the world is not flat!

Anonymous User
Posted by Tom
Saturday, February 02, 2008 5:29 PM EST

I found the article interesting but I believe Dr. Lozano's experiments are very similar to experiments conducted by Dr. Wilder Penfield at McGill University during the 1950's. They are outlined in the book "I'm OK, You're OK" (1967):

Page 5: "During the course of brain surgery, in treating patients suffering from focal epilepsy, Penfield conducted a series of experiments during which he touched the temporal cortex of the brain of the patient with a weak electric current transmitted through a galvanic probe."

Page5: "Penfield found that the electrodes could force recollections clearly derived from the patients memory."

Page 6: “First is the case of S.B. Stimulation at Point 19 in the first convolution of the right temporal lobe caused him to say: ‘There was piano and someone was playing. I could hear the song, you know.’... He was then warned that he was being stimulated, but the electrode was not applied. He replied, ‘Nothing’”

Comments for this article are closed.

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