Thursday, June 18, 2009

Trepanation as an Alzheimer's treatment?!

I found this rather baffling New Scientist article about how trepanation (drilling a hole in the skull to relieve pressure) may be a valid treatment for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
Maybe it's because I'm not a scientist (new or otherwise) but I know my dad's brain was atrophied.  Tiny.  Did not fill his skull anymore.  And in fact, that is why he did not die sooner from his two bad falls-with-brain-injury because there was plenty of room for his injured brain to swell.  So I'm confused as to why venting someone's skull when their brain is already tiny is going to help.
(Yuri Moskalenko) is exploring the idea that people with Alzheimer's disease could be treated by drilling a hole in their skull. In fact, he is so convinced of the benefits of trepanation that he claims it may help anyone from their mid-40s onwards to slow or even reverse the process of age-related cognitive decline.
As we age, cerebral blood flow decreases, and the earlier this happens the more likely someone is to develop early onset dementia. It remains unclear, however, whether declining cerebral blood flow is the cause, or an incidental effect of a more fundamental change.
As we age, the proteins in the brain harden, preventing this system from working as it should. As a result, the flow of both blood and cerebrospinal fluid is reduced, impairing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients as well as the removal of waste. Moskalenko's research suggests that this normally begins between the ages of 40 and 50. Moreover, in a study of 42 elderly people with dementia, he found that the severity of their cognitive disorder was strongly correlated with cranial compliance: those with the severest dementia had the lowest compliance.
Ack.  I'm going to be 41 in a couple of weeks.  Do I need my skull ventilated?!
I guess I am too fixated on the brain atrophy part of Alzheimer's (not mentioned at all in the article) to understand how opening the skull would help fluid circulate.
trepanation treats Alzheimer's
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