Treating Parkinson’s With Deep Brain Stimulation
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A team of scientists and clinicians at UC San Francisco has discovered how to detect abnormal brain rhythms associated with Parkinson's by implanting electrodes within the brains of people with the disease. Researchers are confident that this new work may lead to developing the next generation of brain stimulation devices to alleviate symptoms for people with the disease.
"Normally the individual cells of the brain are functioning independently much of the time, working together only for specific tasks," said neurosurgeon Philip Starr, MD, PhD, a professor of neurological surgery at UCSF and senior author of the paper, was quoted as saying. “But in Parkinson's disease,” he said, “many brain cells display "excessive synchronization," firing together inappropriately most of the time.”
"They are locked into playing the same note as everyone else without exploring their own music," Starr explained. “This excessive synchronization leads to movement problems and other symptoms characteristic of the disease.”
Starr and his colleagues’, new research shows how deep brain stimulation (DBS), which electrifies regions deeper in the brain, below the cortex, can affect the cortex, itself. This discovery may change how DBS is used to treat Parkinson's and other neurologically based movement disorders, and it may help refine the technique for other types of treatment.
Similar to putting a pacemaker inside a heart patient's chest, DBS requires a neurosurgeon to implant electrodes inside tiny parts of the brain, to deliver electrical current.
“Right now most devices implanted into patients deliver continuous electrical stimulation. But modern heart pacemakers deliver jolts only when needed,” Starr said.
If DBS implants could be made to detect an abnormal signal in the surface of the brain and deliver their electrical stimulation only when needed, they might function better, require much less work from clinicians to adjust stimulator settings, and be able to automatically adjust stimulation levels to match changes in patient's movement symptoms. Symptoms can often vary greatly throughout the day, but existing DBS devices have no way to adjust themselves for changing conditions in the patient's brain.
“The next step,” said Starr, “will be to find ways to detect these signals automatically with an implanted DBS device so that the electrical brain stimulator would respond automatically and flexibly to a patient's needs.”
Source: Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), March, 2013