UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Brain stimulation to improve cognition in dementia

22 September 2014

The first patient has been recruited into a ground breaking interventional study using Deep Brain Stimulation to improve cognitive deficits in patients with a form of dementia called Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB).

In contrast to Alzheimer’s disease, DLB is characterised by fluctuations in cognitive ability as well as Parkinsonism (a movement disorder) and visual hallucinations.

The research team funded by the NIHR Queen Square Dementia Biomedical Research Unit will test whether using Deep Brain Stimulation, which involves implanting leads with electrodes at the end into target sites in the brain, can improve cognitive impairments associated with DLB.

Patients with DLB have reduced amounts of the chemical ‘acetylcholine’, and this reduction causes disruption of perception, thinking and behaviour. Acetylcholine acts as a neurotransmitter and comes from an area at the base of the brain called the ‘nucleus basalis of Meynert’. It is this nucleus which is degenerating in DLB – although nerve fibres may still be intact they are not pumping out as much acetylcholine and stimulating the cortex as they do in normal health.

The team plan to recruit six patients into this initial study to learn more about the performance of the nucleus basalis of Meynert within neurodegenerative disease.

Dr Tom Foltynie's IRIS profile

NIHR Queen Square Dementia Biomedical Research Unit