PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A pacemaker for the brain could hold the key to slowing down Alzheimer’s Disease.
A clinical trial testing out its effects is now kicking off at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.
The institute is the first to do a trial in a study that evaluates the safety and effectiveness of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).
“[It’s] a new hope for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease," said Dr. Anna Burke with the Barrow Neurological Institute.
The procedure involves placing a device under the skin and in the brain that send electric signals to the brain, much like a pacemaker’s job for the heart.
"It's believed that targeting activities at the fornix will slow neurodegeneration, or that wasting away of parts of the brain," Dr. Burke said.
The first part of the trial split patients into groups and they underwent daily tests. From there, patients’ devices were either turned on or not yet activated in order to test its effectiveness.
The second phase of the trial, which tested the device’s safety and effectiveness, looked at people over 65 years old with mild Alzheimer’s disease.
One of those tested was 80-year-old Phoenix resident Ann Alderson.
"I'm very grateful to those doctors for their care,” said Alderson who participated in the second trial of the treatment.
She received a DBS device in 2014 and five years later, she does everything from attending art classes to having dinner with friends.
Her husband of 59 years, Jay Alderson, said the device has slowed the dementia and her cognitive were noticeably improved.
"I could tell the difference very soon,” Jay said.
Barrow Neurological Institute completed the first surgery for phase three of the trial on Sept. 9.
During this third trial, doctors will be testing out the frequency that the electricity should be fired into the brain.
"Whether we do a few times per second, or many times per second, which one will have a better effect in terms of driving the memory circuit," said Dr. Francisco Ponce of Barrow Neurological Institute.
According to Barrow, the number of people over 65 years old living with Alzheimer’s is expected to grow to 13.8 million people by 2050.
And while Deep Brain Stimulation doesn’t work miracles, it does offer a view into the future of treatment and management of the disease.
"Holding on to what you've got," Jay said.
Barrow is participating in the third clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of DBS. Worldwide, around 210 patients will take part in the trial at 20 research sites in the U.S, Canada, and Germany.