MUHC's new brain stimulation study hopes to help Alzheimer's patients
A South Shore man is hoping that a new brain stimulation study at the MUHC will help his beloved wife -- and others who come after her.
Micheline Morency was diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease at age 57.
“It started with humour change. Not very much memory loss but her attitude was changing. She was less social. She stopped talking a lot,” said her husband, Serge Gervais.
He tried everything - drug therapies and cannabis – but said he wanted more for her.
“I don't take no for an answer,” he said. “So what I did is I went around and found some clinical trials.”
Morency, now 62, was accepted to this project at the The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.
“We had these early studies that suggested promise, but like many things, you have to go and do a proper clinical trial so, that's what we’re doing here,” said Lisa Koski, a neuropsychologist at the institute.
Colleagues in Winnipeg who discovered earlier that magnetic brain stimulation in certain Alzheimer’s patients can lead to improvements in mental function compared to a placebo group.
“The brain stimulation technique is activating cells that are directly involved in carrying out these kinds of tasks and by increasing the activity in that part of the brain. We're hopefully promoting those very skills that will help people compensate for some of that memory loss which is really characteristic of early stages of Alzheimer’s,” explained Koski.
The MUHC is one of only three worldwide sites - and the only one in Quebec - recruiting participants with early to mid-stage Alzheimer's patients to undergo the treatment.
Morency wears a magnetic coil during sessions of transcranial magnetic stimulation.
“They feel a click when the machine is on their head, like someone's tapping on your head,” explained MUHC research institute assistant Rishanthi Sivakumaran.
In the 20-minute, non-invasive session, the metal coil around the patient's head creates a magnetic field that produces electric currents inside the brain, which fires up neuron activity, the MUHC researchers explained.
The goal is to increase activity in the frontal lobe and parts of the brain affected by Alzheimer's, hopefully to improve patients’ thinking and memory.
“Are they able to recognize objects? Can they find the names of everyday objects and can they remember those words? We also measure how well they're able to communicate with us,” added Kosti.
Gervais knows it's not a cure now, but hopes it will help stabilize his wife's condition, and will contribute to science.
“You can do something for that person and you can do something for other people,” he said.
The study is still accepting new patients.
To find out more, contact researchers at the Research Institute of the MUHC at 514-934-1934 ext 34439 or Rishanthi.firstname.lastname@example.org