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With pharma exiting Alzheimer’s research, new hope (and urgency) seen in the combination of brain training and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

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What does the future hold for the war on Alzheimer’s? (The Globe and Mail):

After spend­ing huge sums on clin­i­cal trails in recent years, the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try has failed to find a drug that can halt the mind-rob­bing dis­ease. And this month, Pfiz­er announced it is end­ing its Alzheimer’s research, although oth­er com­pa­nies haven’t thrown in the tow­el yet. But oth­er pre­ven­tion mea­sures are being explored.

Sev­er­al Toron­to hos­pi­tals are involved in an ambi­tious $10-mil­lion, five-year study to deter­mine whether a com­bi­na­tion of cog­ni­tive reme­di­a­tion – men­tal exer­cis­es – plus elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion of the brain can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s demen­tia as well as oth­er forms of dementia…The goal is to increase “cog­ni­tive reserve” so that patients are able to con­tin­ue func­tion­ing almost nor­mal­ly even as the dis­ease advances, says Dr. Benoit Mul­sant, the study’s lead prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tor…

Dr. Mul­sant and his fel­low researchers are try­ing to boost cog­ni­tive reserve with a com­bi­na­tion of com­put­er-based brain-train­ing exer­cis­es and tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS), a mild elec­tri­cal stim­u­lus that puts brain cells into learn­ing mode.

It’s hoped this approach will strength­en the pre­frontal cor­tex, a part of the brain that plays a key role in “exec­u­tive func­tions,” such as prob­lem solv­ing, plan­ning and rea­son­ing.

To suc­cess­ful­ly pre­vent Alzheimer’s demen­tia, we don’t need to block it com­plete­ly – we just need to delay it by five or 10 years,” explains Dr. Mul­sant, who is chair of the depart­ment of psy­chi­a­try at Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and a clin­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Cen­tre for Addic­tion and Men­tal Health (CAMH).”

The Study

PACt-MD study, at the Cen­tre for Addic­tion and Men­tal Health

  • Descrip­tion: The PACt-MD (Pre­ven­tion of Alzheimer’s Demen­tia with Cog­ni­tive Reme­di­a­tion plus Tran­scra­nial Direct Cur­rent Stim­u­la­tion in Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment and Depres­sion) study is com­bin­ing two nov­el inter­ven­tions to deter­mine whether they can pre­vent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s demen­tia. Cur­rent treat­ments for Alzheimer’s demen­tia (AD) start after a patient already shows symp­toms of demen­tia. Old­er adults with depres­sion or mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment have a sig­nif­i­cant­ly ele­vat­ed risk for AD, even if they do not yet show symp­toms. How­ev­er, there are cur­rent­ly no pre­ven­tive treat­ments to pro­tect these old­er adults against AD. This study is exam­in­ing the com­bi­na­tion of two nov­el inter­ven­tions – tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS) and cog­ni­tive reme­di­a­tion ther­a­py – to pro­tect against AD in patients with depres­sion or mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment. The study is fund­ed by Brain Cana­da and car­ried out by researchers in CAMH’s Geri­atric Psy­chi­a­try Divi­sion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bay­crest, St. Michael’s Hos­pi­tal, Sun­ny­brook Health Sci­ences Cen­tre and Uni­ver­si­ty Health Net­work.

The Study in Context

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