AARP Bulletin July-August 2017

Brain Stimulation May Benefit Dementia Patients

University of Pennsylvania neuroscientists discovered that brain stimulation by a brain implanted "pacemaker" can increase memory function when given if the brain is in a "foggy" state. Psychologist Michael Kahana noted that the stimulation must be properly timed. If given when the brain is functioning well, it may decrease thinking skills.

The trial was testing patients with epilepsy, and some evidently had memory problems as well. That is how this discovery was made. The investigational team hopes to start trials with memory-impaired individuals once an implantable brain stimulator capable of reading brain states is designed.

 

An Article from The Wall Street Journal o2/07/15

Brain, Heal Thyself....

by Norman Daidge

It’s more likely to lose brain cells due to lack of use than overuse, this article explains. Mark Rosenzweig of U. of C. Berkeley and Michael Mersenich of U. of C. San Francisco and others found that with activity and exercise, that pathways in the brain actually changed. They found that the brain is “fluid” and can change by what we do. Both mental and physical exercise can lower the dementia risk. Vigorous daily exercise can lower the chances of getting dementia by 60% they say.

The idea that what happens in later life is “all in the genes” has been disproven. Genetic tendencies can be influenced by environmental factors. Somehow environmental stimuli can interact with the genetics to possibly change the outcome! Science has proven that an increase in exercise triggers new growth of brain cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain where Alzheimer’s hits first, the seat of long term memories. Dr. Edward Taub and his colleagues have also discovered that when strokes occur causing neuron cell death in the brain, the confinement of the good limb and intensive exercise of the paralyzed part can cause other neurons to take over for the damaged ones. Exercising the brain in general shows improvement in daily life even 10 years later!

This is great news for those people who know that they have an APOE4 gene, the late onset gene for Alzheimer’s. If they start early and vigorous exercise not only in their body, but also their brain, perhaps they can at least push back the onset of dementia, or maybe even escape it altogether!

[I know the value in vigorous exercise. Although my husband, Jim, did not consistently do vigorous exercise from his 20’s on, once he was diagnosed at age 45 with APOE4 dementia, vigorous exercise helped to clear his brain and get rid of the “sunburned brain” feeling so he could think more clearly for a few hours.]

 

LM11A-31 or C31

Summarized from “Alzheimer’s From A New Angle” by Alice Park, originally printed in Time Magazine.

A new drug called LM11A-31 or C31 as it’s known to its researcher Dr. Frank Longo from Stanford University School of Medicine is being tested right now in clinical trials. This drug is attacking the Alzheimer’s dilemma from a new angle. Instead of trying to dissolve the harmful proteins, amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles, he is using this nerve growth factor to bolster the brain neurons in order to help protect them from the damaging protein onslaught. If the brain can maintain its cognitive function longer despite the protein build-up, perhaps that is the key. The drug in mice actually showed progression from a plaques and tangled brain to a healthy one. Although we know that many different scenarios that were successful in the testing of mice did not prove helpful in the human, they are hopeful that this will work. People with higher levels of brain nerve growth factor (BDNF) do fare better in keeping more cognitive function and this gives them a cushion of reserve against harmful proteins.

The drug has survived the Phase I Trials that showed that it is safe with minimal side-effects in humans. Now in Phase II Trials it has to be shown to actually improve patients’ cognition. Dr. Longo of PharmatrophiX hopes that in the future this compound will be one of a few drugs that will be taken as a “cocktail” for those with dementia….this drug to bolster the neurons and other drugs to break up the harmful proteins.

Let’s hope this shows some promise. It’s about time researchers found something to give us some hope!