University of Manchester scientists are launching a pilot study to investigate the effects of cognitive training combined with transcranial magnetic stimulation – a technique used to stimulate different brain regions – in people with mild memory loss and people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The six-week trial at the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust is being funded with an £11,830 grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, and will use technology developed by Neuronix Medical, based in Israel.
Led by Karl Herholz, the team will recruit six volunteers with either amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) – a condition that causes problems with memory, but not to an extent that interferes with everyday life – or mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Roughly half of people with aMCI will go on to develop dementia, usually Alzheimer’s disease.
The volunteers will participate in a series of sessions using Neuronix Medical’s Non Invasive Cortical Enhancer (NICE) technology, which combines cognitive training exercises with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a non-invasive technique that uses a magnetic field to stimulate specific areas of the brain. The researchers aim to investigate whether these combined activities may help stimulate long-term connections between brain cells, potentially helping people to better cope with the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
The participants will be given a series of cognitive tests at the beginning and end of the study, and the researchers also plan to use sophisticated brain scans that measure glucose metabolism – a marker of brain activity – to test the effects of the technique. It’s hoped this preliminary study will lead to a large-scale trial to investigate the method’s long-term effects.