Potential for Intermittent Stimulation of Nucleus Basalis of Meynert to Impact Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease

Commun Integr Biol. 2017 Nov 26;10(5-6):e1389359. doi: 10.1080/19420889.2017.1389359. eCollection 2017.


The brain's cholinergic arousal pathways decline in parallel with the brain's executive functions in aging and Alzheimer's Disease. The frontline and currently most effective approach to treating Alzheimer's disease is the administration of cholinesterase inhibitors, which, in a dose dependent manner, improve the symptoms of cognitive decline over the first months of treatment before further decline occurs. We recently showed that intermittent deep brain stimulation of the nucleus basalis of Meynert improves working memory function in young adult monkeys, and that this improvement depended on cholinergic function. Within minutes, the monkeys' ability to remember stimuli over a delay period improved. Over months, the monkeys performed the working memory task better even in the absence of stimulation. Here, we show historical data from our monkey colony in which more than two dozen animals have performed the same behavioral task to asymptotic performance levels. Using a distribution based on our historical data, we estimate that the monkeys receiving intermittent stimulation leapt over the performance level of 32-44 percent of peer animals in the first several months after stimulation was initiated. Implications for a parallel increase in cognitive function for early Alzheimer's patients are discussed.

Keywords: Alzheimer's Disease; acetylcholine; deep brain stimulation.