Implants that deliver deep brain stimulation may help people with Alzheimer’s disease retain independence longer, a new study asserts.

Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus implanted thin electrical wires into the brain’s frontal lobes, which are associated with working memory and executive functioning. Investigators wanted to see whether using a brain pacemaker could improve cognitive, behavioral and functional abilities.

“We chose this target that focuses on these cells that are still functioning pretty well, not actively degenerating like the memory circuits,” said Douglas Scharre, M.D., a neurologist and lead investigator.

Over two years, three patients who had these electrodes implanted maintained more of their mental faculties than a group of control patients who began with similar symptoms. One of the participants regained an ability to make meals for herself. All three elected to keep the stimulation going after the trial period ended, as they believed it was delaying their mental decline.

This approach has never been studied among Alzheimer’s patients before. The approach, however, has been used to treat more than 100,000 people who have Parkinson’s disease. Full findings appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.