Deep brain stimulation is a procedure in which a surgeon implants a neurostimulator, which emits electrical stimulation to certain areas of the brain. The ]]>Mayo Clinic]]> notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of deep brain stimulation in 1997 for essential tremor and later in 2002 for Parkinson's disease. But can it work as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease?
In Parkinson's disease, deep brain stimulation can help with symptoms such as walking problems, rigidity, slowed movement and tremor. The ]]>MayoClinic.com]]> points out that Parkinson's disease patients who undergo deep brain stimulation include those who do not have stable responses to their medication, such as levadopa. In these cases, deep brain stimulation works by sending electrical signals to areas of the brain involved with movement, which prevents abnormal neural signals.
The ]]>National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)]]> explains that the set up for deep brain stimulation involves three parts: an electrode; a neurostimulator, which is the battery pack; and the extension. The surgeon implants the electrode in a specific region of the brain, which he or she identifies using an imaging scan, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computed tomography (CT) scan. With the neurostimulator, the surgeon implants that near the collarbone, then connects the two parts with the extension, which is also underneath the skin. The electrical signals are sent from the neurostimulator through the extension and up through the electrode to the brain.
In the Alzheimer's disease study published in the Annals of Neurology, the researchers investigated the effects of deep brain stimulation on a group of patients with mild Alzheimer's disease.