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

By Melissa Lafsky | June 17, 2009 4:05 pm

headache.jpgOne Russian neurophysiologist certainly thinks so—in fact, he’s dead set on proving it. New Scientist reports 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.

Discoblog: Need to Perform Brain Surgery? Better Grab Your Black & Decker

Image: flickr/ josepy

MORE ABOUT: Alzheimer's, medicine

    Drilling a hole in your head will most likely kill you!


    And surely, there must be some other ways to heal from that disease, if not now then maybe in the near future!

  • Mel

    I can’t wait to get one!

  • Vlad

    I would reckon there’s more to it than just drilling a hole and leaving it alone. I’m sure it would take anesthesia, antibiotics and then narcotics to treat the resulting pain. It’s doubtful he’ll leave the hole as drilled, but instead will insert a pop-off valve that remains closed until the pressure dictates it needs opening. Just steer clear of opened valves! Brain gases probably don’t smell great.

  • Chris

    I need that like I need a hole in the head.

  • C H

    My God, man, drilling holes in his head is not the answer. The artery must be repaired without delay or he will die! So put away your butcher knives and let me save the patient!
    Chemotherapy… fundoscopic examination… dealing with medievalism here!

  • NewEnglandBob

    Is Yuri Moskalenko going first to have a hole drilled in his head?

  • Albert Bakker

    Trepanation-fashion seems to come in waves, fortunately with a very low amplitude.

    The basic idea that drilling holes in your head improves your cognitive functions seems to have been around since “Dr” Bart Huges, inspired by the flexibility of the cranium of babies drilled a hole in his own head, with a “Black & Decker” notably. He survived the drill for 40 years and then finally succumbed to a heart disease in 2004.

    Here a scientific paper of his hand which illustrates his well thought out plans: http://www.iisg.nl/today/nl/06-01.php

    These extremly retarded ideas are still influential enough for some people to severely feck up their heads with a dremmel, some alcohol, plastic sheets and a pinch of salt: http://www.bmezine.com/news/people/A10101/trepan/

    One might want to read http://www.skepdic.com/trepanation.html before running to the garden shed to save yourself from Alzheimer’s. But if you do, please don’t forget to report back.

  • jo

    I have read the full artical in the New scientist ,the skills of Moskalenkos research will no doubt be a positive one in the constant battle for a cure towards a fix for Alzheimers,critising this effort belongs in the realm of fake therapys,you know who you are.So ,I am a hundred percent behind all types of positive,forward thinking,un biased views.Those that borders on the contempt ,selfish ,racist,narcissistic should stick to reading glossy magazines about mmm well the latest fasion trends perhaps.

  • Pingback: Man’s Skull Miraculously Grows Back Half a Century After Accident | Discoblog | Discover Magazine()

  • Moose

    I’m not endorsing trepannation; however, there are misconceptions about it. Skulls from 3000 years ago show that people not only survived trepannation, but also had experienced multiple trepannations over time. Pain is not an issue. Neither the brain nor skull have pain sensors, so only a local anathesia for the skin is needed. Also, people having brain surgery are awake. There are websites devoted to self-trepannation. People live through trepanning themselves. I think it’s crazy, but there aren’t significant risks especially when done by a physician. Trepanning is a medical procedure to treat many brain conditions.

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  • Claire

    Perhaps Moskalenko took his idea from Jeffrey Dahmer?

  • Gordon

    This idea has been around for decades ever sice Amanda Fielding first drilled a 1/4″ hole into her skull available on a film she made of the idiotic idea in the 60’s. She actually tried to convice the Beetles to undertake this dubious route to higher consciousness, but to no avail. The woman doesn’t seem to understand simple geometry and the minute volume of skull tissue removed, nor does Moskalenko seem to know the hole is quickly filled with scar tissue. Moskalenko was paid to do this ridiculous study by Fielding to confirm her brainless idea. Check Bosch’s famous and first known painting “The Cure of Folly” to get a good laugh at this truly dumb and ancient medical procedure. Notice in the painting how the surgeon has removed mysterious emeralds from the brain and has a sum of money in his purse received from the suffering and trusting patient. Of course, the patient soon died from infection. Fielding probably spent a $100,000 to have this publication produced with her name on the study. She also claims drilling holes in your head prevents aging. Check the Beckley Foundation website to see how she actually looks 30 years older than her true age of 65. Nothing but folly and aristocratic nonsense. If this theory was true, anybody having their skull opened for surgery would also become a genius and stop aging. Go ahead and try Fielding’s idea, and not surprisingly, Moskalenko has not had the procdeure done on himself, although he is over 90 years old.

  • techie dojo

    I think he has too many holes in his head. 


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