A new type of therapy has been shown to be effective in treating Alzheimer’s for patients in the early or middle stages of the disease. The “NeuroAD” therapy, developed by Neuronix, involves ‘magnetic brain-training’ and is thought to help patients forge new pathways around the damaged areas in the brain.
A series of studies have been conducted involving more than 100 patients, three quarters of which saw their symptoms stabilise or improve – and some saw the effects last for up to a year.
The treatment involves a six-week procedure that costs £6,000. The first clinic to offer the treatment opened its doors last week in Marylebone, London – although private practices in Berkshire, Chester and Manchester have also adopted the technique.
Over 500,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and to date, there are no drugs to reverse the disease. Current medications help to relieve the mental symptoms of the condition but the side effects experienced by many patients are intolerable.
The NeuroAD treatment requires that the patient complete recall and reasoning exercises which are accompanied by electromagnetic brain stimulation. The first stage of this therapy is an MRI scan which locates the six areas of the brain crucial to memory, language and logic. After this stage has been completed, the patient undertakes a series of tests which last for an hour a day, five days of the week, challenging each of these regions. Tests may include lists of coloured shapes or words that they are asked to remember.
The transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is administered using a ‘Non Invasive Cortical Enhancer’ – a device that sits outside of the skull and projects a magnetic field. It is thought that the field encourages the patient’s brain cells to form new connections.
To date, the trials conducted have shown that the therapy results in a three-point improvement in the ADAS-Cog score. The improvements last for at least several months and the side effects are mild. In contrast, a typical Alzheimer’s patient’s ADAS-Cog score will drop by six points each year. For some patients, the treatment has been so effective that they have been able to resume playing the piano or other such demanding pastimes. Each patient’s response was individual – so for some, the therapy allowed them to simply communicate better with their loved ones, while others found themselves able to paint, or to solve crossword puzzles again.
Neuronix say that patients undergoing their treatment will start to feel improvement in cognitive ability as early as three to four weeks after treatment begins. However, experts warn this is not a cure for dementia – which is still likely to be dependent on future developments in medication. One expert explained: “The hope is that TMS-based treatments will hold off the decline of cognition for a few months.”
Who will manage your affairs?
If you or a relative has recently received a diagnosis of dementia, it may not be too late to put your legal and financial affairs in order. We suggest speaking to our Later Life Planning team to see if it is still possible to update your Will and make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This document enables someone you trust to make decisions for you, when you become unable to make them for yourself. There are two types of LPA and you can read more about them on our LPA page. Dementia progresses at a different rate for everyone and the rate of decline can be rapid. It is important to put your affairs in order while you can – once you lose ‘mental capacity’, it will be too late and a friend or relative will have to apply to the Court for a Deputyship Order instead – a complex and expensive process. Even with an Order in place, they will not be able to amend your Will for you.