Skip to main content

Brain-stimulating implant can turn down Parkinson’s symptoms as required

Special brain implants could help “turn down” the effects of Parkinson’s disease, research shows. The treatment is a variation on conventional deep brain stimulation treatment, which is already used in Parkinson’s patients. Deep brain stimulation involves delivering a current which can help dampen down the activity of certain nerve cell clusters in the brain. However, it can cause unwanted side effects including speech difficulties and unusually jerky movement.

The researchers in a new study believe that they may have found a different approach, courtesy of a type of responsive stimulation that only kicks into action when an excess of beta waves, common in Parkinson’s patients, are detected. This is more like delivering targeted medication only as required, rather than as a constant supply.

Related Videos

In a study carried out by researchers at the University of Oxford, 13 patients with Parkinson’s, whose symptoms meant that they moved excessively slowly, were tested with the responsive stimulation treatment. The approach had the effect of positively countering the patients’ slow movement, while causing reduced levels of speech impediment compared to conventional continuous stimulation. This could have a significant impact on the quality of life of Parkinson’s patients.

But the treatment might not work for everyone. In two patients tested, the responsive stimulation resulted in the recurrence of tremors.

“Beta oscillations is effective in PD patients with bradykinetic phenotypes, delivers less stimulation than [conventional deep brain stimulation], and potentially has a more favorable speech side-effect profile,” the researchers conclude in a recent paper describing their work. “Patients with prominent tremor may require a modified adaptive control strategy.”

This is only one of the multiple high-tech approaches Digital Trends has covered to battle the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Alongside deep brain stimulation, researchers have investigated how special shoes could be used to reduce symptoms, ranging from shoes with in-built laser-pointing tech to ones that incorporate robotic components.

Up to 10 million people worldwide suffer from progressive neurological disorder Parkinson’s disease. Its prevalence ranges from around 41 people in 100,000 for those in their forties to upward of 1,900 people in 100,000 for those aged 80 or over.

This latest piece of research, titled “Acute effects of Adaptive Deep Brain Stimulation in Parkinson’s disease,” is available to read online courtesy of the biology preprint server bioRxiv.

Editors' Recommendations

We still can’t cure Parkinson’s, but tech is making life easier for sufferers
projects backed by google and microsoft are tackling parkinsons disease klick labs sympulse

Emma Lawton was 29 when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and it changed her life forever. Lawton, a graphic designer by trade, could do nothing as her tremors worsened. Eventually, her symptoms became so severe that she could no longer draw a straight line -- or anything close to it. There is no cure to Parkinson’s. She never thought she’d be able to draw again.

Lawton wasn’t about to take her diagnosis lying down. She connected with other sufferers online, engaging in video calls to hear about their experiences, and soak up any advice. She recorded her own observations in a journal, which would eventually be published as Dropping the P Bomb.

Read more
Shocking discovery shows that zapping your brain can boost creativity
zap brain electricity creative 5937bfa373a24

Need to make someone more creative? How about zapping their brain with an electric current? No, it’s not the worst writers’ room scenario ever, but an experiment into brain stimulation carried out by researchers at the U.K.’s Queen Mary University of London and Goldsmiths University of London.

In a study involving 60 participants, a weak electrical current was applied to the scalp using electrodes. The currents were sufficiently low that they did not cause any harm or unpleasant sensations. When the transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) technique was used to suppress a key part of the frontal brain called the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, participants were shown to get better at carrying out “creative” tasks involving out-of-the-box thinking. However, since the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain heavily involved in much of our reasoning processes, they got worse at solving problems in which many items needed to be held in mind at once.

Read more
Parkinson's disease may one day be treated by using a virus to reprogram brain cells
parkinsons disease brain cells reprogrammed scan

A team of scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute have been working on a technique for reprogramming cells in the brain as part of what might one day be a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

The research involves modifying neurons in the brains of sufferers of Parkinson’s, a long-term degenerative disease of the central nervous system which predominantly affects motor abilities. Up to 1 million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, a number that’s more than the combined total of people in the U.S. diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Lou Gehrig's disease.

Read more