In 1926 scientists in Sydney, Australia put together a portable machine that â€œplugged into a lightening pointâ€ and while attaching a skin pad soaked in saline to a cardiac needle and inserted into the correct part of the heart sent off electrical impulses that revived a stillborn infantâ€™s heart. This was the first use of a pacemaker on a human being, and although the technology has been refined the principle is still in use today.
Heart pacemakers are common now to regulate a personâ€™s heart rhythm. There is another type of pacemaker that workâ€™s on the human brain.
Electrodes implanted into the head send electrical impulses to specific areas of the brain â€“ depending on the area that needs help. This treatment, which uses what they call deep brain stimulation or cortical stimulation, has been found to be highly effective in treating memory problems, including patients with Alzheimerâ€™s. It has also been used, with pacemakers implanted on the outside of the brain, or near the spinal chord or cranial nerves to give relief to patients who have chronic pain, Parkinsonâ€™s disease, epilepsy, migraines and depression.
A researcher at Toronto Western Hospital, Dr. Andres M. Lozano, found the benefits for treating problems with memory while treating a patient for obesity in 2003. He discovered that by sending signals to certain areas of the brain memories were triggered in his patient. During follow testing he discovered that the memory of the patient has increased significantly.
To take his discovery further, Lozano and his colleagues implanted brain pacemakers in six Alzheimerâ€™s patients and followed their progress for three years. Three of the six had increased their memory capacity, and showed much less deterioration than they had expected.Â â€œWhile the study was not looking for efficacy, the results suggest that of the six patients, three may have done better than if the Alzheimerâ€™s disease was allowed to run its course,â€ Lozano said in a press released statement.
Fifty percent may not bring a definitive conclusion, it certainly offers hope for people suffering from memory decline or other problems that affect their ability to hold remember or hold memories. A larger trial is warranted, says Lozano. They know the procedure is safe, and are just waiting until they are able to get funding for the next phase.Â
The use of deep brain stimulation, and brain implants, show just how much technology has advanced in the research to improve the quality of life for people with amnesia, dementia and other brain problems. I look forward to reading more about their progress in this area.
Â From the desk of Ron White
Discovery â€“ Brain Pacemaker Could Improve Memory in Alzheimerâ€™s Patients: http://news.discovery.com/tech/brain-pacemaker-could-improve-memory-in-alzheimers-patients.html
Wikipedia â€“ Brain Pacemaker: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_pacemaker
Wikipedia â€“ Artificial pacemaker: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_pacemaker