Enhancing neuroplasticity and frontal lobe function in patients with mild Alzheimer disease

2012  -  Toronto, ON, CA


Centre for Additction and Mental Health

Project description

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia. It affects more than half a million Canadians, five million Americans, and billions around the world. These numbers are likely to double over the next two decades. AD is characterized by a gradual decline in memory and thinking abilities. This decline is thought to be caused by weak connections among brain cells, i.e., weak brain plasticity. Current medications are suboptimal and unlikely to enhance these connections. In this project, we propose to use a novel non-invasive brain stimulation approach using magnetic stimulation to strengthen these connections and improve memory and thinking processes. This is an innovative approach that deviates from traditional chemical approaches in the treatment of AD. To complete this project, we will recruit 36 individuals with mild AD and assign them to receive either an active or a control brain stimulation intervention over 2 weeks. At one, seven, and fourteen days following the two week intervention, we will assess the strength of cellular connections in the frontal part of the brain and the individuals’ performance on a memory task.

Relevance to the acceleration of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging

If this project is successful, it will have a great impact on the treatment of AD in particular and neurodegenerative diseases of aging in general. It would open the door to a new line of therapeutics that are not medication-based, that have minimal systemic side effects, and that target brain plasticity. Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to change its structure. With brain stimulation, brain plasticity can be harnessed to improve brain function and treat neurodegenerative diseases.

Anticipated outcome

By carrying out this project, we expect to uncover and target a new mechanism that underlies memory and thinking problems in individuals with AD. This mechanism is a form of brain plasticity and enhancing brain plasticity in the frontal parts of the brain will lead to better memory and possibly slower overall decline in the intellectual abilities of AD patients.