June 25, 2024

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Non-Surgical Brain Stimulation Therapy for Dementia Treatment

Non-Surgical Brain Stimulation Therapy Offers New Hope for Dementia Treatment

Non-Surgical Brain Stimulation Therapy Offers New Hope for Dementia Treatment

Scientists have successfully conducted a human trial using a novel high-frequency technique to stimulate neurons in the hippocampus, responsible for memory formation, organization, and retrieval.

This non-invasive and painless treatment method is currently being tested on elderly individuals suffering from cognitive impairments, with the potential to enhance memory decline and functional impairments caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Led by scientists from Imperial College London (ICL), the study is referred to as Temporal Interference (TI) brain stimulation.

It involves delivering two harmless high-frequency electric fields to the brain, with frequencies of 2000 Hz and 2005 Hz, creating a third 5 Hz current where they intersect.

This current is crucial as it matches the firing frequency of brain cells.

Non-Surgical Brain Stimulation Therapy Offers New Hope for Dementia Treatment

The 5 Hz current stimulates the hippocampus without affecting the health of other brain tissues. Scientists hope that the affected neurons can be “ignited” here, reinitiating their function and reawakening the mitochondria, which supply energy to cells, damaged due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Nir Grossman, the head of the research and a member of ICL’s Department of Brain Sciences, stated, “Until now, to stimulate deep brain structures, surgery involving electrode implantation was necessary, posing risks and potential complications for patients. Our new technology demonstrates, for the first time, the ability to remotely stimulate specific areas deep within the human brain without the need for surgery, opening a completely new avenue for treating brain diseases affecting deep structures like Alzheimer’s.”

Following measurements on post-mortem brains to ensure precise interference with the hippocampus, 20 healthy volunteers underwent TI stimulation while performing memory-related tasks involving matching faces and names. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that TI selectively influenced specific hippocampal activity directly linked to memory.

Subsequently, researchers from the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) and the University of Surrey extended TI sessions to 30 minutes, revealing that memories formed during stimulation were retained during retesting, despite similar forgetting rates as the control group. Therefore, further research is needed to assess the treatment’s duration and long-term effects.

Ines Violante, the study’s first author from the University of Surrey, emphasized, “The ability to selectively target deep brain regions non-invasively is very exciting because it provides a tool for studying how the human brain operates and offers possibilities for clinical applications. Combining non-invasive imaging with brain stimulation will help us uncover processes supporting cognitive functions such as memory and learning. Understanding these processes and how to modify them is crucial for devising better personalized strategies for disease treatment or prevention.”

Currently, the UK Dementia Research Institute is conducting TI trials on dementia patients. This three-week study, based in London, is recruiting patients aged between 50 and 100 with mild cognitive impairment and the potential for non-familial early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Grossman expressed hope that this work could significantly reduce the cost and risk, making deep brain stimulation therapy more accessible. They are currently testing whether repeated stimulation treatments over several days can benefit early-stage Alzheimer’s patients by restoring normal brain activity in affected areas, thus improving memory impairment symptoms.

A second paper by researchers from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland independently validates this technology. Both studies are published in the journal “Nature Neuroscience.”

Non-Surgical Brain Stimulation Therapy Offers New Hope for Dementia Treatment

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