Canadian surgeons have made a serendipitous discovery. While using deep brain stimulation to try suppressing the appetite of a morbidly obese patient, they inadvertently evoked in the patient vivid autobiographical memories of an event that had taken place more than 30 years previously. They also found that the electrical stimulation improved the patient's performance on associative memory tasks.
These unexpected findings raise the possibility that deep brain stimulation could be used to treat patients with Alzheimer's Disease, and the research team is now beginning a small clinical trial involving 6 patients who have been diagnosed with that condition.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an invasive technique involving the implantation of an array of electrodes into the brain. The implant, which is usually attached by thin wires to a small battery which is itself implanted under the skin near the collarbone, acts as a " brain pacemaker" - it emits regular electrical pulses, which activate or inhibit specific regions of the brain.