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tACS for Amyloid-β Reduction in Alzheimer's Disease

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT03290326
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : September 21, 2017
Results First Posted : March 3, 2022
Last Update Posted : March 3, 2022
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Emiliano Santarnecchi, Massachusetts General Hospital

Brief Summary:
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is characterized by amyloid-β (Aβ) plaque buildup and phosphorylated tau (p-tau) in the brain, as well as widespread neurodegeneration. The evidence suggests that both amyloid and tau play a critical role in AD and interventions that reliably and safely decrease the intracerebral burden of amyloid or tau could potentially be of marked clinical importance. Currently, therapeutic options are very limited and while there are pharmacologic interventions that transiently improve cognitive function, there are no treatments that alter disease progression. The current study seeks to use a novel therapeutic intervention that uses noninvasive brain stimulation to target amyloid in the brain. The investigators anticipate this will decrease the amyloid levels in the brain, as evidence by Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Alzheimer Disease Device: Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS) Not Applicable

Detailed Description:

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is characterized by amyloid-β (Aβ) plaque buildup and phosphorylated tau (p-tau) in the brain, as well as widespread neurodegeneration. There is no current treatments that alter disease progression.

Investigators will recruit 20 individuals with AD with evidence of amyloid placques in the brain through Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging. Investigators will use a novel approach, transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), to target the region of maximum amyloid burden in the brain. All participants will receive tACS. Each individual's participation in the study will consist of approximately 16 visits: 3 days for screening/baseline procedures as described below, 10 tACS study visits, and 3 days for follow-up assessments. Subjects will undergo baseline cognitive assessment, structural and functional MRI characterization, and resting-state EEG measurement. Additionally, patients will undergo a tACS-EEG recording session to assess brain plasticity levels and identify markers of response to stimulation. All subjects will then undergo 10 1-hour sessions of gamma-frequency (40 Hz) tACS, targeted to the region of maximal tracer uptake on the amyloid PET study. Subjects will take a standardized adverse effect questionnaire before and after each session and complete a short cognitive test after each session to demonstrate safety and tolerability. At the end of the 10 sessions, subjects will then repeat the baseline assessments, followed by repeat amyloid PET imaging to assess for changes in amyloid burden.

Investigators anticipate that targeting the region of amyloid burden in the brain with tACS will reduce the amyloid burden as evidence by the follow up PET imaging and show improvement on electrophysiological measures of brain function and on cognitive testing. If our prediction is correct, this will will provide a critical first step in the development of a novel intervention to prevent and treat AD.

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 17 participants
Allocation: N/A
Intervention Model: Single Group Assignment
Masking: None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Feasibility and Safety of a High-Frequency Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation Intervention for Amyloid-β Reduction in Alzheimer's Disease
Actual Study Start Date : November 27, 2017
Actual Primary Completion Date : May 14, 2019
Actual Study Completion Date : May 14, 2019

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: tACS
Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) tuned at the frequency of 40Hz (gamma frequency) will be applied for 1 hour in 10 sessions on consecutive weekdays. The tACS intervention (10 sessions) will be preceded and followed by amyloid PET imaging as well as a clinical/cognitive evaluation. The assessment of adverse effects will constitute a Primary outcome measure. Changes in amyloid load in the stimulated brain region will be evaluated and constitute a secondary outcome of the study. Clinically relevant changes in cognitive and clinical scores will be also evaluated as secondary outcomes. Stimulation will be also preceded and followed by electroencephalography (EEG) recording aimed at assessing changes in spectral power in the gamma band.
Device: Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS)
tACS will be applied at a frequency of 40Hz and targeting the area of maximal tracer uptake on amyloid PET imaging using an individualized multielectrode design to maximize the induced electrical current to the target region.

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Change in Amyloid Burden [ Time Frame: Up to six weeks ]
    Changes in the amyloid load observed via PET imaging will be evaluated by comparing PET data acquired before and after the 10 tACS sessions. The metric used is SUVR, a measure of the amount of proteins in the brain identified at the PET exam. We will calculate the difference between pre and post tACS SUVR (dSUVR) for the entire brain and report the average value (and standard deviation) for the entire group of patients. A negative value express a decrease in the amount of proteins in the brain post tACS intervention. It must be considered that dSUVR values refer to the entire brain, however patients were treated according to personalized tACS montages targeting patient-specific regions mostly affected by the pathology. This might have led to slightly different changes in SUVR in different part of the brain across participants. Also, as per standard procedures, results are presented at group level, i.e. without considering individual differences in longitudinal amyloid load changes.

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Change in EEG Gamma-band Spectral Power [ Time Frame: Up to six weeks ]
    EEG power spectral densities (PSD) before and after the tACS intervention were evaluated, specifically absolute and relative power density values (μV2/Hz) were calculated within the gamma band (35-45Hz). Changes in the spectral power are reported in term of percentage of changes in relative spectral power from Pre to Post tACS intervention.

  2. Change in Adas-Cog Score [ Time Frame: Up to six weeks ]
    Change in Adas-Cog score will be reported, to document a potential clinical benefit of tACS. The scale ranges from a total score of 0-70 with higher score indicating greater cognitive impairment.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

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Ages Eligible for Study:   45 Years and older   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Clinical Diagnosis of mild AD defined by: Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) = 0.5-1, Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) >/= 20, Demonstration or history of memory impairments
  • Amyloid positive PET imaging
  • At least 45 years old
  • On a stable dose of medications for memory loss including cholinesterase inhibitors (e.g. donepezil, rivastigmine or memantine) as defined as 6 consecutive weeks of treatment at an unchanging dose
  • Intelligence Quotient (IQ) > 85 as determined by the Wechsler Test of Adult Reading (WTAR) and no history of intellectual disability

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Current history of poorly controlled migraines including chronic medication for migraine prevention
  • Current or past history of any neurological disorder other than dementia, such as epilepsy, stroke, progressive neurologic disease (e.g. multiple sclerosis) or intracranial brain lesions; and history of previous neurosurgery or head trauma that resulted in residual neurologic impairment.
  • Past or current history of major depression, bipolar disorder or psychotic disorders, or any other major psychiatric condition.
  • Contraindication for undergoing MRI or receiving Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) or tACS,

    • History of fainting spells of unknown or undetermined etiology that might constitute seizures.

  • History of seizures, diagnosis of epilepsy, history of abnormal (epileptiform) EEG or immediate (1st degree relative) family history of epilepsy; with the exception of a single seizure of benign etiology (e.g. febrile seizure) in the judgment of the investigator.
  • Chronic (particularly) uncontrolled medical conditions that may cause a medical emergency in case of a provoked seizure (cardiac malformation, cardiac dysrhythmia, asthma, etc.).
  • Metal implants (excluding dental fillings) or devices such as pacemaker, medication pump, nerve stimulator, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) unit, ventriculo-peritoneal shunt, cochlear implant, unless cleared by the study MD.
  • Substance abuse or dependence within the past six months.
  • Medications will be reviewed by the responsible MD and a decision about inclusion will be made based on the following: The patient's past medical history, drug dose, history of recent medication changes or duration of treatment, and combination of Central Nervous System (CNS) active drugs.
  • All female participants that are pre-menopausal will be required to have a pregnancy test; any participant who is pregnant will not be enrolled in the study.
  • BMI > 40 kg/m2. We will limit the BMI to <40 kg/m2 because of weight limits of the scanner bed and width limits of the MRI.
  • Subjects who, in the investigator's opinion, might not be suitable for the study
  • A hair style or head dress that prevents electrode contact with the scalp or would interfere with the stimulation (for example: thick braids, hair weave, afro, wig)

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT03290326

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United States, Massachusetts
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston, Massachusetts, United States, 02215
Sponsors and Collaborators
Massachusetts General Hospital
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Principal Investigator: Emiliano Santarnecchi Massachusetts General Hospital
  Study Documents (Full-Text)

Documents provided by Emiliano Santarnecchi, Massachusetts General Hospital:
Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
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Responsible Party: Emiliano Santarnecchi, Associate Professor of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital Identifier: NCT03290326    
Other Study ID Numbers: 2017P000373
First Posted: September 21, 2017    Key Record Dates
Results First Posted: March 3, 2022
Last Update Posted: March 3, 2022
Last Verified: March 2022

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Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: No
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: Yes
Device Product Not Approved or Cleared by U.S. FDA: Yes
Product Manufactured in and Exported from the U.S.: No
Keywords provided by Emiliano Santarnecchi, Massachusetts General Hospital:
Memory Problems
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Alzheimer Disease
Brain Diseases
Central Nervous System Diseases
Nervous System Diseases
Neurodegenerative Diseases
Neurocognitive Disorders
Mental Disorders