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Duke researchers refine deep brain stimulation help Parkinsons patients

Deep brain stimulation has improved the lives of thousands of people with Parkinson's disease since its 2002 FDA approval. The technology can relive tremor, rigidity and other symptoms that debilitate patients, according to a Duke University article.

By delivering electrical currents to the basal ganglia, the region of the brain that controls movement, the so-called “brain pacemaker” can relieve Parkinson symptoms. Deep brain stimulation, which can also treat epilepsy, essential tremor and obsessive-compulsive disorder, is already used by 100,000 patients worldwide, the article states.

 “The technology can have almost miraculous effects,” says Warren Grill, the Addy Professor of Bioengineering at Duke—but it’s not perfect, or even fully understood. Grill is a BMES Fellow.

For the past decade, Grill and his team have sought to learn more about how DBS works and how it can be improved. Now, their transformational technology is making DBS therapy for PD not only more effective, but safer and less expensive.

The novel technology, Temporally Optimized Patterned Stimulation (TOPS™), sprang from a new insight into how to combat one of the critical biological problems in PD: as the disease causes dopamine-producing cells to die and dopamine levels in the brain drop, neurons stop signaling in normal ways and instead begin firing in lockstep with each other. Those abnormally synchronous signals send faulty messages to the rest of the body, disrupting motor activity.

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