TPS in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) of March 30, 2023.

Prof. Ulrich Sprick in an interview on transcranial pulse stimulation

He is one of the leading researchers in this country on transcranial pulse stimulation (TPS): Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick, professor at Heinrich Heine University (HHU) and chief physician at the Alexius/Josef Hospital in Neuss, which belongs to the St. Augustinus Group.

The expert in brain research, whose scientific focus includes neuroplasticity, answers the most important current questions about the state of Alzheimer’s research, his studies on transcranial pulse stimulation, what distinguishes TPS from other brain stimulation methods and why this particular form of therapy could soon become the favorite in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in a special supplement of the FAZ of March 30, 2023.

Prof. Ulrich Sprick - Transcranial Pulse Stimulation - St. Augustine Group - Alzheimer Science
© St. Augustinus Gruppe

Against Forgetting: New procedure to improve quality of life in people with Alzheimer’s disease

Memory loss, orientation difficulties, increasing challenges in coping independently with everyday tasks – the symptoms and consequences of Alzheimer’s disease are complex and often cause a high level of suffering – for those affected themselves, but also for their relatives.

“Despite the greatest scientific efforts, Alzheimer’s disease is still not curable”
Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick

Available drugs can only slow the progression of the disease, there are large gaps in research. The World Health Organization (WHO) therefore calls on research communities and politicians to give much more importance to the issue of dementia. This includes, for example, paying more attention to therapies such as transcranial pulse stimulation (TPS). This new treatment method could bring about a breakthrough.

TPS was the first and so far the only procedure of its kind to be approved for the treatment of the central nervous system in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia. The procedure is currently the subject of critical debate among experts, and additional research is needed – as called for by the WHO – to provide scientific proof of the efficacy of TPS. But experienced researchers are convinced of its effectiveness. One of the few experts in the German-speaking world with experience of TPS is Professor Dr. Dr. Ulrich Sprick, head physician of the Outpatient Center and Day Clinics at the Alexius/Josef Hospital in Neuss.

In this interview, he talks about his work and related findings in the use of TPS

Mr. Professor Dr. Dr. Sprick, what is TPS and how does it work?

“TPS is a modern procedure used in mild and moderate dementia to alleviate existing symptoms”
Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick

It can halt the progressive progression of Alzheimer’s dementia, providing relief to sufferers and their families. A small device that generates focused low-intensity shock waves is held to the patient’s or patient’s head. The shock waves pass through the top of the skull and stimulate the brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s dementia. During stimulation, a monitor shows in real time where and how many pulses are being administered or have already been administered. TPS improves cerebral blood flow and leads to the formation of new blood vessels. In addition, the regeneration of nerve cells is stimulated via growth factors. Both the formation of new nerve cells and the rewiring of nerve cells in the brain are promoted. By reversibly opening the so-called blood-brain barrier, TPS also evokes a greatly improved effect of administered drugs within the brain.

What are the advantages of TPS?

The key advantage over other brain stimulation methods is that quite precise stimulation is possible – down to the millimeter – and that we can also penetrate much deeper into the brain than was previously possible with other known brain stimulation methods. The whole thing is also non-invasive, which means that the top of the skull does not have to be opened and the brain tissue is not injured.

What side effects are to be expected with the application?

To date, very few and minor side effects, such as headaches, have occurred with TPS treatment. This also distinguishes TPS from currently used alternatives, such as antibody therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. The procedure is performed while the patient is fully conscious and is painless.

“Each session lasts only about 30 minutes, and afterwards the daily routine can be continued normally.”
Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick

Nevertheless, transcranial pulse stimulation is also viewed critically in professional circles. What is the reason for this?

Currently, there is still a lack of large studies to scientifically prove the effectiveness of the procedure. There are currently only small studies without control groups and a few research groups working on the topic – for example, at universities in Vienna, Berlin, Hong Kong and Italy. And of course here in Neuss at the Alexius/Josef Hospital, where I and my team are conducting observational studies on the new procedure. In the meantime, we have treated around 80 patients with Alzheimer’s disease with the help of the new procedure in our psychiatric outpatient clinic.

What conclusions have you reached and how do you assess the effectiveness of the procedure?

“In advanced or far-advanced Alzheimer’s dementia, there are few data to date.”
Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Sprick

In a publication presented last month, it was possible to demonstrate that small progress could be achieved even with a severe expression of symptoms, but so far only in a very small number of study participants. In our outpatients with mild and moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms, previous applications of TPS have resulted in improvements in one or more different areas of symptomatology in about 60 percent. Not only thinking ability, but also problem-solving skills, mood and drive of affected individuals have improved noticeably. For example, patients who had previously been very withdrawn and secluded were once again taking part in joint activities with their relatives. We are currently investigating further effects on learning and memory.