TMS for Alzheimer’s
Treating Alzheimer’s with TMS Therapy
Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative brain disorder that affects more than 46 million individuals globally. The cause and mechanism of the disorder are still not fully understood, but it appears that certain genetic factors and past brain trauma put individuals at a higher risk. Typically, the progression of the disease occurs slowly over the course of many years. As Alzheimer’s progresses and more brain cells are lost, increasingly severe symptoms present, including loss of memory and decreased cognitive function. While treatments exist to lessen symptoms, at the moment, no treatments exist to stop or reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s. However, an exciting recent study suggests people with early Alzheimer’s disease could reap modest benefits from brain stimulation through rTMS.
Evidence for The Support
Earlier this year, at the 13th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases in Vienna, the company Neuronix reported the results of its latest phase III clinical trial for the use of its TMS device, known as neuroAD, in Alzheimer’s patients. In this study, the company enrolled 130 individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s at 10 sites—nine in the U.S. and one in Israel. About 80% of participants were already taking some form of symptom-relieving therapies. At the start of the trial, each person took a cognitive test to gauge mental function and was randomly assigned to receive the rTMS-cognitive therapy or a sham treatment for six weeks. The sessions lasted about an hour each day, five days per week. Patients retook these tests 6 and 12 weeks after beginning treatment. Results demonstrated that the active-TMS group showed a 1.8-point test score advantage over the sham group at the 12-week mark.
For reference, finding effective therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is extremely difficult—historically less than 1 percent of all Alzheimer’s drug trials have succeeded. For this reason, researchers were understandably excited when their results documented a statistically significant positive effect of TMS for cognition.
John-Paul Taylor, a neuropsychiatrist at Newcastle University in England, who was not involved with the study, agrees that these results are very exciting and that more research is required. He and his team are currently working on integrating computational modeling and neural imaging into TMS delivery. He believes that, in the near future, the results of these Alzheimer’s studies can be improved using his methods, suggesting that we might be able to tailor stimulation to each individual’s case for increased effectiveness.
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