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Treatment for depression key to fighting memory loss in Alzheimer’s

The Bionics Institute is preparing to launch a world-first clinical research trial to investigate whether a treatment for depression could be the key to fighting memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

A devastating condition, not only for the individual but also their loved ones, Alzheimer’s causes decline in most areas of cognition, including memory.

There are 55 million people worldwide living with dementia today, but despite billions of dollars and decades of research, there are still no effective treatments.

However, that is set to change with a potentially ground-breaking treatment being investigated by Bionics Institute researcher Professor Kate Hoy.

Professor Hoy, a clinical neuropsychologist by training, found that a brain stimulation treatment called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which is an effective treatment for depression, may also improve cognition.

Explaining the painless, non-invasive procedure, Hoy says that TMS uses magnetic pulses to induce an electrical current in the brain, causing cells to fire.

Applied regularly over days and weeks, these magnetic pulses give rise to lasting changes in the brain cells that, in turn, can restore brain connectivity leading to an improvement in cognitive function.

Hoy said: “Results from initial research using TMS to improve cognition and fight memory loss in Alzheimer’s are promising and we’re about to launch a large-scale clinical trial to establish a personalised treatment approach – the first of its kind in the world.”

Bionics Institute CEO Robert Klupacs says this research is incredibly exciting, not only because it could improve the lives of millions of people around the world, but also improve quality of life for their carer.

He said: “With the right funding from donors and the government, we can get this trial moving and make this Alzheimer’s treatment available in clinics in the future, if shown to be effective.”


For Cheryl Conway, who has seen her 92-year-old mother deteriorate from Alzheimer’s over the past ten years, supporting research into a new treatment is incredibly important.

She says that with Alzheimer’s: ‘you lose your parent while they’re still alive’.

“Before my mother went into the nursing home it was awful. She’d ring me 20-30 times a day. She couldn’t remember how to use the oven or the washing machine. She ate like a bird and the weight just fell off.

 “I just want mum to enjoy her final years, come to family gatherings, hold her great grandchildren.”

Download the media release here.

About this research

Magnetic stimulation of the brain shows promise as a potential new treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease and is now ready for testing in larger clinical trials.

Bionics Institute senior research Professor Kate Hoy has developed a treatment program using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to improve brain function in people with Alzeheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease has been shown to interfere with important networks in the brain and this disruption is linked to the cognitive difficulties experienced.

Professor Hoy will conduct a large-scale randomised, controlled trial of a personalised treatment approach. Read more about the research and how to register your interest in participating in the trial here.

Did you miss our recent event?

The Bionics Institute are developing a new treatment to improve memory function in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Developed by Bionics Institute researcher, Professor Kate Hoy, this new treatment, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), uses magnetic pulses to alter brain activity.

View a recording of the webinar below to hear:

  • Lead research Professor Kate Hoy, explain how magnetic brain stimulation could be key to fighting memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Clinician Dr Renata Lemke, give an overview of dementia and the limitations of current treatment.
  • The personal experience of Cheryl Conway, who is caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease.

Watch the full event recording below.

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