Deep-brain stimulation restores memory in mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms


By Quang Tran | Thursday 06 April 2023

Scientists in the US have found that stimulating precise areas in the brains of mice can help alleviate Alzheimer’s symptoms.

The team used light pulses to stimulate a specific area deep in the mouse brain, called the suprammamillary nucleus (SuM). They investigated whether this stimulation, followed by exposure to a chemical known to stimulate some types of nerve cell, helped new nerve cells form in the mouse brain. They also assessed whether this improved the mice’s memory and thinking abilities.

Previous research has shown that people with Alzheimer’s are less able to make new nerve cells in the brain. But it’s not yet known how this affects the onset of symptoms, such as memory loss or changes in mood.

In this study, mice with features of Alzheimer’s disease, including hallmark amyloid plaques in their brain, had partially restored memory and thinking abilities compared to mice that did not receive the treatments. They also found that immune cells in the brain were better at breaking down amyloid plaques in mice that received the treatments.

The study is published today (Thursday 6th April 2023) in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Strategic Initiatives at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Although drugs that directly remove amyloid plaques, like lecanemab, are showing promise in treating Alzheimer’s disease, we also need approaches that work in other ways. This will include treatments that protect nerve cells from damage, and ways to restore brain functions lost during the disease’s development.

This study discovered a technique to stimulate new nerve cell growth in mice with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. By using a combination of light pulses and exposure to nerve-stimulating chemicals, the researchers were able to activate specific nerve cells deep in the brain, partly restoring memory and emotional functions.

“It’s important to note that these results are in mice, and there are differences between mouse and human brains. And while these findings provide a promising lead for investigating potential new approaches for treating Alzheimer’s in humans, it’s a very long way from practical application.

“Nevertheless, studies like these are essential to unravel the complexities of Alzheimer’s, and bring us closer to ways to effectively treat, and even cure, the disease.”

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Quang Tran