It should go without saying that everyone hopes to maintain their mental clarity as they grow older. After all, our memories make us who we are, and the thought of losing them can be very scary. While many seniors can feel pleased in knowing that their brains are functioning as they should, others cannot say the same. Sure, everyone forgets things from time to time, which isn’t usually cause for concern, but more frequent or significant occurrences of memory loss can be an unsettling indication of a deeper problem. What can be done to help seniors who are struggling with dementia and Alzheimer’s? One such treatment involves an implanted pacemaker which feeds electric impulses to the brain.
What is an Implanted Pacemaker?
Much like a heart pacemaker electrically stimulates the heart, a brain pacemaker stimulates the brain and helps it to maintain neural equilibrium. The device is inserted beneath the shoulder, and tiny holes are drilled into the skull so that electrodes and wires can be implanted into the brain tissue. Continuous electrical impulses, known as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), are the end result of this surgical procedure and can help control behaviors including tremors, rigidity, and dementia.
Interestingly, DBS was not originally created to help with memory loss. It has been in use for about 15 years to treat neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. It has also been used to treat psychiatric disorders, like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and severe depression. The idea to use it for memory loss came in 2008 when researchers were using DBS to help an obese man control his appetite. The researchers soon realized that the treatment was also helping the man to recall memories from long ago. While this was a big surprise, it opened the door to using the therapy to help control dementia symptoms. Since that time, many studies have been conducted to find out whether DBS is in fact a viable therapy for dementia patients. While these studies have returned mixed findings, some researchers are quite encouraged.
How Can an Implanted Pacemaker Help With Memory Loss?
Our brains are run by electrical impulses carried between brain cells, or neurons. As we age, neurons naturally die and are replaced with new ones. However, many seniors’ brains do not replace dying neurons fast enough. Electrical impulses from an implanted pacemaker may stimulate the growth of new brain cells. In theory, this should improve retention of memories and ability to recall them. Some studies on DBS have indicated that it works well, with pacemaker recipients showing enhanced memory and increased quality of life.
Regrettably, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are reaching epidemic levels. It is estimated that more than 5 million Americans struggle with Alzheimer’s-like cognitive challenges, and the number is growing. Even more troubling is the data that shows Alzheimer’s deaths are on the rise. While there are many drugs and therapies out there to help slow the progression of the disease, there is no cure as of yet. It is hard to reduce someone’s human experience and memories down to electrical impulses, and receiving an implanted pacemaker to shock the brain may seem a bit creepy. However, for people suffering from memory loss, the hope of regaining some of their missing moments can be priceless.
While a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia is still out of reach, new therapies are being created and tested all the time. Those who are struggling with memory loss may take comfort in the many treatment options currently available. It is always helpful to have caretakers around who understand the impact that memory loss has on a person’s life. If you are interested in housing options for yourself or a loved one who struggles with memory loss, learn more about assisted living at Briarwood.