Discovery could lead to new Alzheimer's treatment

January 30, 2008 2:16:58 PM PST
A team of Canadian doctors may have accidentally stumbled upon an effective treatment for memory loss.

It's a discovery that could pave the way for an entirely new treatment for Alzheimer's. Doctors at Toronto Western Hospital were testing a technique called deep brain simulation.

It's currently used to treat Parkinson's disease, chronic pain and severe headaches. What the Canadian doctors wanted to do is see if this treatment where electrodes deliver small amounts of electricity the brain could also help an obese patient lose weight.

Instead, while they were stimulating a region of the patient's brain for appetite, they were amazed to hear the man say he was starting to have memories of an incident in a park that happened decades ago.

"As we increased the intensity of stimulation the more details filled in," said Dr. Andres Lozano, Toronto Western Hospital.

Over the following year researchers discovered that the man who initially had normal memory could remember far more, and scored higher on memory and learning tests when the device was on. The same researchers have started to implant the device in six other patients were Alzheimer's to see if the electricity stimulates their memory.

Details of the research are reported in the Annals of Neurology.