Brain Wave Therapy: Opportunities and Challenges of Gamma-Inducing Brain Stimulation Interventions in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias

February 10, 2021 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm America/New York Timezone

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Emiliano Santarnecchi

Berenson-Allen Center for Non-invasive Brain Stimulation, Department of Cognitive Neurology Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center | Harvard Medical School | Boston, MA, USA

Thanks to advances in public health and medicine, the life expectancy of the world population continues to lengthen. While longer lifespan is a unique opportunity for society to benefit from the wisdom and experience of the elderly, aging is however also the greatest risk factor for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. A fundamental neurobiological substrate of cognitive decline and neurodegeneration appears to involve alteration of neuroinflammatory processes with associated deposition of aberrant proteins in the brain, such as amyloid-β (Aβ) and phosphorylated tau (p-tau). Recent pre-clinical work from MIT reveals that induction of fast brain oscillations in the gamma band in mice can modulate activity of microglia, modify inflammatory brain processes, and lead to clearance of Aβ and p-tau deposition in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Translation of such findings to humans could have transformative impact for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related Dementias, also in light of recent failures of drug-based trials. The presentation will cover recent translational work by Dr. Santarnecchi and his team on the application of noninvasive brain stimulation techniques to induce brain oscillatory activity and protein clearance in patients with Dementia, including currently undergoing first-in-human clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.

Emiliano Santarnecchi is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA), the director of the CME course in “Transcranial Electrical Stimulation (tES) for neuropsychiatric research” at Harvard Medical School, an affiliated Associate Professor at the Department of Physics at Northeastern University (Boston, MA, USA), and the director of the Network Control Laboratory at BIDMC. His main interests lie in the combination of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation (NIBS), electrophysiology (e.g., EEG, MEG) and neuroimaging (e.g., fMRI, DTI, ASL) to modulate brain activity and measure brain’s capacity to respond to external perturbation.  He is particularly interested in the development and application of image-guided brain stimulation solutions to increase brain plasticity, modulate connectivity patterns and enhance cognition, with the ultimate goal of developing novel therapeutic options for neurological and psychiatric patients. His work particularly focuses on the application of oscillatory electrical fields (e.g., transcranial alternating current stimulation – tACS) to induce long-lasting changes in brain oscillations which might translate into therapeutic opportunities for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias.

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