Brain Pacemaker for Alzheimer's Disease

10:15 PM, Jan 24, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +
57-year-old Kathy Sanford underwent groundbreaking surgery to have a pacemaker implanted in her brain to help with the effects of early onset Alzheimer's Disease.

(WUSA)-- Last October, 57-year-old Kathy Sanford underwent groundbreaking surgery to have a pacemaker implanted in her brain to help with the effects of early onset Alzheimer's Disease.

To see how well it's working, Sanford is given tests in which she's asked to highlight certain shapes. Her father Joe Jester says the first time she took the test she was barely able to identify any.

Jester says, " Then they turned the machine on, and she got 30. So, it was a dramatic improvement right there. We knew right then we were on to something."

The brain 'pacemaker' actually employs the use of deep brain stimulation, a technique that has already proven successful in treating thousands of people with movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease. With the touch of a button, doctors can adjust tiny rice-sized probes in Kathy Sanford's brain, placed in key locations during the delicate surgery.

Dr. Ali Rezai is a neurosurgeon at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center who performed the deep brain stimulation procedure.

He says, "For us to find the right spot in the brain, we do what we call brain mapping, where we put these tiny, hair-like microphones into the brain, and we're listening to the brain cells or the neurons talking to each other."

After just a few months, Dr. Rezai is encouraged by the results he's seeing.

Dr. Rezai says, "If the early finding that we're seeing continue to be robust and progressive, then I think that will be very promising and encouraging for us. But so far we are cautiously optimistic."

As for Kathy Sanford, she didn't hesitate to volunteer to be the first with the implant. Not so much for her sake, but for others.

She says, "I have kids, you know. And grandkids, so I'm like, yeah, I'm going to make the world better. I hope."

For more information about the brain pacemaker for Alzheimer's Disease, click HERE.