New York scientists realized they could promote the growth of new neurons in the brains of mice using a magnetic stimulus in the region associated with memory. They believe that this technique could slow down the progression of the Alzheimer’s disease.

Experts are excited about their work but are aware that the results would need to be replicated in humans. Trans cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has already been used to treat certain disorders like depression and schizophrenia and to rehabilitate people after stroke but the researchers are hoping they would make this treatment to grow new neurons.

The scientists gave mice the therapy for five days and then examined their brains. They found large increases in the proliferation of stem cells - immature cells that go on to develop into nerves and other kinds of tissue - in a part of the brain called the dentate gyrus hippocampus. These cells are believed to play a crucial role in memory and mood regulation. The study showed that one receptor in the cells was activated. The decline in activity of this receptor has been spotted in mice and humans with Alzheimer's disease.

The problem may appear with humans due to the fact that the hippocampus is much deeper in the brains of humans so a technique that could produce the same effect as in mice would be needed.

The work with TMS is encouraging for the use of brain stimulation in chronic diseases such as stroke and dementia. More work is needed to find out if TMS were a useful treatment approach for Alzheimer's disease in humans.