Researchers in the United Kingdom have developed a noninvasive form of deep brain stimulation that they hope could ease symptoms and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Usually, deep brain stimulation involves surgery, with electrodes implanted into specific areas of the brain. These electrodes then generate electrical impulses that reduce abnormal brain activity. Some neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s, are treated with deep brain stimulation, but it’s too invasive for all but the most severe cases of Alzheimer’s.
Now, scientists at the U.K. Dementia Research Institute have found a way to perform deep brain stimulation without surgery, placing the electrodes on the scalp. They produce overlapping electrical fields that target the hippocampus, an area key to learning and memory. In a trial of this noninvasive form of deep brain stimulation, 20 healthy volunteers found it easier to memorize pairs of faces and names.
Next, the technique will be used on people with early-stage Alzheimer’s.