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Will Drilling a Hole in Your Head Cure Alzheimer's?

DiscoblogBy Melissa LafskyJune 18, 2009 1:05 AM


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One Russian neurophysiologist certainly thinks so—in fact, he's dead set on proving it. New Scientistreports that Yuri Moskalenko, former president of the Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, believes that trepanation—drilling a hole in the skull, once a tool of witch doctors to cure migraines—could help anyone from their mid-40s or older to "slow or even reverse the process of age-related cognitive decline." His reasoning is described as follows:

As we age, the proteins in the brain harden, preventing [the cranial] 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... So where does trepanation come into all this? "A hole made in the bony cavity would act as a pressure-release valve," says Kennett, and this would alter the flow of fluids around the brain. This is exactly what Moskalenko observed when he carried out one of the first neurophysiological studies on trepanation.

Surprisingly, while some are criticizing Moskalenko's proposed treatment, the part irking them isnt the fact that it involves drilling a hole in your skull—rather, it's how the hole works to help. Meanwhile, fans of the idea admit that it's going to be tough to sell to patients. Though finding the right drill shouldn't be much trouble at all. Related: Discoblog: Need to Perform Brain Surgery? Better Grab Your Black & Decker

Image: flickr/ josepy

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