Published September 27, 2021
- There are not very many effective treatment options for Alzheimer disease most of the options have side effects and temporarily reduce symptoms rather than delay disease progression. Effective treatments with minimal side effects that prevent and reduce the severity of Alzheimer disease are needed. Neuromodulation techniques have recently emerged for the treatment of Alzheimer disease, with the hope of filling some of these treatment gaps.
- Two invasive and 8 noninvasive techniques are described in this Horizon Scan, some with more published evidence than others. Deep brain stimulation, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, and transcranial alternating current stimulation have more published studies involving patients with Alzheimer disease. Technologies at an earlier stage of development and with fewer studies providing an evidence base include vagus nerve stimulation, ultrasound stimulation, electromagnetic stimulation, photobiomodulation, infrared stimulation, and auditory stimulation.
- The evidence regarding neuromodulation techniques is mostly promising; however, most studies are preliminary or include fewer than 50 participants. Given the heterogeneous nature of Alzheimer disease and the variety of methods in which the different neuromodulation technologies can be used, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness and relative effectiveness of neuromodulation techniques and devices.
- Limitations in the research include limited evidence on the long-term effects and cost-effectiveness of the techniques in the treatment of Alzheimer disease, as well as the clinical significance of the results in the published studies thus far.
- Despite the limited evidence, the results emerging from the literature are hopeful for many people living with Alzheimer disease. Importantly, the lack of reported serious side effects is a hopeful start for many who currently experience difficulties with pharmaceuticals. Given the heterogeneous nature of Alzheimer disease, the increased variety in treatment options also offers hope in potentially finding more effective treatments for individuals living with the debilitating disease.