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I usually hear about deep brain stimulation (DBS) in relation to essential tremor or Parkinson disease. But these researchers out of Singapore have applied DBS to a new disease– dementia.
Using middle age rat models that showed some signs of dementia, they implanted the stimulators in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC above) and turned them on during a learning task. They found that at a high frequency stimulation, the rats could better synthesize what they were learning into short term (a few minutes) and long term (several hours to days) memory. They found and hypothesize that this was due to the stimulation causing neuroplasticity to occur in the hippocampus via turning on genes that signal the brain cells to develop new connections.
Neuroplasticity at its finest. I’ve been reading some about electrical stimulation through the skull being investigated as a way to boost neuroplasticity in stroke victims (and thereby increase their brains’ ability to re-learn how to move. I so wish and hope this becomes a viable pre-therapy option too… a therapy primer, so to speak.) I wonder now there was a non-invasive way to target this vmPFC with the through the skull type stimulation, so that my little demented patients could learn again.
It’s truly a struggle getting through to my demented patients to teach them how to move again. They know they hurt and that’s all they know, so they don’t move. And then they just weaker and weaker. It’s a terrible downward spiral for those folks if they get injured and end up in my hospital. I can only do so much when I can’t get through to them that it’s ok to move again. Maybe if I could “prime” them with a technology similar to this, they would be able to learn again.