For people living with Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, deep brain stimulation can transform their lives.
When you first hear the term neuromodulation, it may sound like a something from of science fiction movie. But there's no science fiction here.
The fast-growing field includes devices that change your nerve activity by sending electrical signals to a specific area in your body, according to the International Neuromodulation Society.
From neuromodulation comes a therapy called a deep brain stimulation (DBS). For people living with Parkinson's disease and essential tremor, deep brain stimulation can be a revelation as they manage complex medical conditions, transforming their lives for the better.
What is DBS?
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a process that sends electrical impulses to parts of your brain that aren't working properly, enabling the currents to realign. According to the International Neuromodulation Society, a DBS system helps to restore the stability of brain circuits that have been disturbed so your brain activity returns to normal.
Although many people have never heard of deep brain stimulation, it's been around for quite a while.
Effects of DBS in Parkinson's disease
To target symptoms of Parkinson's disease, doctors first implant a medical device called a neurostimulator. The device, operated by a battery, sends electrical stimulation to the directional lead. This lead delivers these stimulation pulses to a certain area of your brain that controls movements. The electrical stimulation halts abnormal nerve signals that trigger the most debilitating Parkinson's effects. For example, DBS helps control tremor, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems that often come with PD.
To pinpoint the best area of the brain to address during DBS implantation, surgeons use another tool called microelectrode recording. The process uses a tiny wire to track nerve cell activity in a specific location to better identify where the surgeon should target treatment.
DBS is also a highly effective medical therapy for people with essential tremor, a common movement disorder that causes people's hands or arms to shake while doing daily activities such as eating, drinking, or writing. An essential tremor may impact your head, vocal cords and tongue and worsen with stress, fatigue or stimulant medications.
DBS can block the abnormal nerve signals in your brain that cause these hand and arm tremors, restoring your natural balance.
However, DBS works best for people specifically diagnosed with essential tremor — that is, the progressive, often inherited disorder that usually begins in later adulthood. People who experience tremors after a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or multiple sclerosis diagnosis may not find DBS useful.
Advancements in DBS
Research in deep brain stimulation is leading to growing advancements in the field and new technology that is making DBS even more effective.
One example of a new deep brain stimulator is our Deep Brain Stimulation System, which delivers mild electrical pulses to certain targets in the brain to stimulate the structures involved in motor control, while blocking the electrical signals that cause involuntary movements. It's a DBS system that includes first-of-its-kind wireless software designed to make DBS therapy more efficient and personalized.
It does this by combining three unique features: innovative directional lead technology, a wireless mobile platform and a sleek design for enhanced patient comfort. The device also includes the smallest bilateral primary cell.
DBS is currently being studied for use in other medical conditions and for children with movement disorders. There's no doubt the growing treatment will continue to advance and improve the lives of those with neurological and movement disorders.
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