Deep brain stimulation is a therapy for Alzheimer's disease (AD) that has previously been used for mainly mild to moderate cases. This study provides the first evidence of early alterations in performance induced by stimulation targeted at the fornix in severe AD patients. The performance of the five cases enrolled in this study was scored with specialized assessments including the Mini-Mental State Examination and Clinical Dementia Rating, both before and at an early stage after deep brain stimulation. The burden of caregivers was also evaluated using the Zarit Caregiver Burden Interview. As a whole, the cognitive performance of patients remained stable or improved to varying degrees, and caregiver burden was decreased. Individually, an improved mental state or social performance was observed in three patients, and one of these three patients showed remarkable improvement in long-term memory. The conditions of another patient deteriorated because of inappropriate antipsychotic medications that were administered by his caregivers. Taken together, deep brain stimulation was capable of improving some cognitive aspects in patients with severe AD, and of ameliorating their emotional and social performance, at least at an early stage. However, long-term effects induced by deep brain stimulation in patients with severe AD need to be further validated. More research should focus on clarifying the mechanism of deep brain stimulation. This study was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03115814) on April 14, 2017.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; deep brain stimulation; fornix; cognition; memory; mood; performance; early stage; functional neurosurgery; dementia.