Applying electrical currents to the brain could prevent dementia symptoms up to 20 years before they start, a study in mice suggests.
Researchers in Tel Iviv, Israel, discovered that they could stop the deterioration of brain cells and prevent memory loss and cognitive decline when they targeted areas of the rodents’ brains that are damaged during Alzheimer’s.
Once a month, the team administered low-level electrical waves with electrodes that were surgically placed in their brains to prevent harmful proteins from forming in the brain and the brain’s memory center from shrinking.
They found that the electrical currents prevented the deterioration that could be a sign of Alzheimer’s, which they said would be equivalent to 10 to 20 years before diagnosis in humans.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term used to describe a variety of progressive neurological disorders that affect memory, thinking and behavior. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than six million Americans have the condition and 73 percent are 75 years old or older.
Study author Dr Inna Slutsky said: “This indicates potential to predict disease in a latent state, before the onset of cognitive decline.”
The team looked at changes in the brain that occur during sleep, which is often when the first signs of the condition develop.
To test this, the researchers put mice to sleep under anesthesia to study changes that occur in the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain.
The team used anesthesia based on data suggesting that anesthetics can cause a buildup of toxic proteins that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Study author Dr. Inna Slutsky said these signs of deterioration could appear years before symptoms of dementia. “Anesthesia reveals a pathophysiology in brain activity in the animal model,” she said.
“We think that there are mechanisms that compensate for this same pathology while awake and thus prolong the presymptomatic period of the disease.”
The researchers found that the mice experienced “silent seizures” in the hippocampus while they slept, which look like seizures on brain scans but do not cause any outward symptoms. Healthy mice, however, had reduced activity.
They said silent seizures could be signs of brain deterioration.
To prevent this excess activity, the team used deep brain stimulation (DBS), a surgical procedure in which electrodes are placed in specific areas of the brain. These electrodes are connected by wires to a device placed under the skin near the chest.
The device sends electrical pulses whenever the brain produces abnormal signals, such as those that cause memory problems, balance problems, and speech difficulties.
The team observed that Alzheimer’s patients have several signs of deterioration in their brain. This includes the buildup of beta-amyloid and tau proteins, which can destroy brain cells responsible for memory.
In addition, the memory and learning center of the brain, the hippocampus, decreases and increases its activity during sleep. This leads to memory leak.
The researchers focused on finding protective measures against this decline.
Shiri Shoob, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University, said: “Already 10 to 20 years before the onset of the familiar symptoms of memory impairment and cognitive decline, physiological changes occur slowly and gradually into the patients’ brains. .’
In the study, published in November in the journal Nature CommunicationsMs. Shoob’s team found that deep brain stimulation suppressed this excess activity, preventing cognitive decline as early as 20 years before the onset of Alzheimer’s.
In the study, the researchers connected the electrodes to the nucleus reuniens, a small part of the brain that connects the hippocampus to the thalamus, which regulates sleep. This was done once a month.
DBS has also been used in the United States to treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, essential tremor, dystonia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“When we tried to stimulate the nucleus reuniens at high frequencies, as is done, for example, in the treatment of Parkinson’s, we found that it worsened damage to the hippocampus and silent epileptic seizures,” said Ms Shoob.
“Only after changing the stimulation pattern to a lower frequency were we able to suppress seizures and prevent cognitive decline.”
«We have shown that the nucleus reuniens had the ability to completely control these seizures. We could increase or decrease the seizures by stimulating it.’
The team plans to conduct human clinical trials next.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term used to describe a variety of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain), which affect memory, thinking and behavior.
Common symptoms include memory loss, poor judgment, confusion, repeating questions, difficulty communicating, taking longer to complete normal daily tasks, acting impulsively, and mobility problems.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than six million Americans have the condition and 73 percent are 75 years old or older.