For many patients with advanced Parkinson's disease, deep brain stimulation can mean the difference between having difficulty walking and being able to run. Since its approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997, the treatment has been used by 20,000 patients with advanced Parkinson's disease or other movement disorders to help control their symptoms. Now, researchers have discovered that surgically implanting electrical stimulators on just one side of a patient's brain could help alleviate symptoms on both sides of the body, potentially cutting the surgery risk for some patients. The results are published in the October issue of the journal Motor Control.
There are currently two sites in each hemisphere of the brain where stimulation is targeted. In the same study, researchers found no significant difference in motor performance between two groups of patients who received stimulation at either site. But given past evidence that patients who receive stimulation at one of the sites may be more prone to depression and other neuropsychological conditions, the study's authors conclude the current bias toward placing the implants on that site may be unwarranted.
"These data clearly indicate that unilateral deep brain stimulation improves bilateral motor performance of the arms and hands," said Jay Alberts, an assistant professor in the School of Applied Physiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Alberts, along with researchers from Emory University and the University of Florida, collaborated on a study in which 10 patients with advanced Parkinson's disease participated in a series of tests designed to measure upper body motor performance. The tests were designed to mimic everyday activities that Parkinson's patients often have trouble with, such as opening jars or tying shoelaces. The patients performed the tests while the stimulator was on and then three hours after it was turned off.
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Contact: David Terraso
Georgia Institute of Technology
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