Zapping the brain with electric twice a day can reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s in WEEKS, study suggests
- More than 60 patients had significantly improved cognitive function after six weeks
- The electrical current 'stirs up' the plasticity of the brain, making 'rewiring' possible
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Zapping the brain with electricity twice a day is possible reverse symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, a small study has suggested.
Researchers passed a low-intensity electrical current through the brains of patients with mild to moderate dementia and compared them with patients who received a dummy treatment.
All 63 patients showed improved word recall and recognition scores after six weeks, compared to none in the control group.
It is thought that the electrical current could 'spark' the brain's ability to change and grow, allowing 'rewiring' through the formation of new neural networks.
A patient undergoing transcranial direct current stimulation therapy (not as part of the study)
The researchers from Ningbo University in China said the results “strongly indicate” that the treatment is a “significant and promising intervention for improving cognitive function.”
The therapy, called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS for short, involves two electrodes placed over specific parts of a person's head, such as the prefrontal cortex, that deliver a constant, low-intensity electrical current. It is non-invasive and painless.
tDCS is already used with positive results for the treatment of depression and Parkinson's.
In the study, approximately 140 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease from four hospitals were randomly assigned to receive two daily sessions of tDCS or sham tDCS on five days of the week for a period of up to six weeks.
The electrical current was sent to the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain used for planning, decision-making, working memory, social behavior and aspects of speech and language.
The participants were 65 years or older and had had Alzheimer's disease for more than six months.
The Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) and the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) test, which test language and memory, were used to evaluate cognitive performance at the start of the trial, after two weeks, and again after six weeks. to soften.
Ultimately, 133 patients completed the two-week intervention and 124 patients completed the six-week intervention. There were several reasons for withdrawal, but none were due to discomfort.
After two weeks there was no change in either group, but after six weeks of 30 daily 20-minute sessions, the tDCS group had significantly improved cognitive function, particularly their word recall, recall of test instructions and word recognition.
No such improvements were seen in the sham group.
Experts think the therapy may stimulate parts of the brain related to memory that are damaged during Alzheimer's disease, such as the temporal lobes.
The electrical current can also stimulate the brain's ability to grow, change and reorganize itself. This ability is lost in Alzheimer's patients, which is partly responsible for cognitive decline.
The research was published in the journal General Psychiatry.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than six million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, which is expected to rise to 13 million by 2050.