Brain Stimulation: Shocking Benefits


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, is a type of therapy that delivers small pulses of electricity to the brain. It’s been approved for use in movement disorders, but scientists are looking at the benefits of brain stimulation using DBS to improve memory, mental health, and dozens of other conditions.

With deep brain stimulation, surgeons implant a small wire in the brain. A separate device directs small pulses of electricity into the affected areas. Patients with Parkinson’s and essential tremor can use a remote to control the strength of the signals.

Now, researchers are studying brain stimulation for treatment of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and OCD, as well as drug and alcohol addiction, obesity, and chronic pain.

Flavio Frohlich, PhD, Dir., Carolina Center for Neurostimulation AT UNC School of Medicine explains, “Immediately after stimulation, we see change in brain activity and we see improvement in symptoms.”

Frohlich is the Director of the Carolina Center for Neurostimulation. He and colleagues use a technique called TACS, or Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation, a weak, alternating pulse.

Frohlich says, “The beauty of the type of stimulation that we’re studying is essentially we’re learning to speak the language of the brain. Meaning we can treat potentially different disease states by adjusting the stimulation to match the specific changes in those brains.”

And in a new study of seniors, researchers at Boston University say participants who received low dose electrical pulses through the scalp for four days, did better on memory tests, and those benefits lasted at least a month.

Studying the benefits of brain stimulation on hard-to- treat conditions.

The Boston researchers say the results of their study are early but could have big implications for treating patients with memory and cognition problems. Currently, there are more than 384 clinical trials of brain stimulation listed on the government trial website covering more than two dozen conditions.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.


REPORT #3042

BACKGROUND: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a neurosurgical procedure that uses implanted electrodes and electrical stimulation to treat movement disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD), essential tremor, dystonia, and other neurological conditions. Doctors may use DBS for movement disorders or neuropsychiatric conditions when medications have become less effective or if their side effects interfere with a person’s daily activities. When successful, DBS interrupts the irregular signals that cause tremors and other movement symptoms. After a series of tests that determine the optimal placement, neurosurgeons implant one or more wires, called leads, inside the brain. The leads are connected with an insulated wire extension to a very small neurostimulator implanted under the person’s collarbone, similar to a heart pacemaker.


WHO NEEDS DBS?: DBS is more than just a surgical procedure. It involves a series of evaluations, procedures, and consultations before and after the actual operation. DBS surgery is an FDA-approved treatment for Parkinson’s disease, and although it can improve movement symptoms and greatly improve quality of life in properly selected patients, it is not likely to return anyone to perfect health. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, the ideal candidate for DBS surgery has Parkinson’s symptoms that interfere with activities of daily living; fluctuations in mobility due to Parkinson’s medications; continued good response to Parkinson’s medications, even if the medication effects may wear off sooner than they have in the past; or a history of several different combinations of Parkinson’s medications while under the supervision of a neurologist specializing in movement disorders.


A NEW TREATMENT: A non-invasive ultrasound treatment for Parkinson’s disease that was tested in a pivotal trial led by University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers is now broadly available at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). The device, called Exablate Neuro, was approved by the FDA to treat advanced Parkinson’s disease on one side of the brain. Focused ultrasound is an incisionless procedure, performed without the need for anesthesia or an in-patient stay in the hospital. Patients are fully alert and lie in an MRI scanner wearing a transducer helmet. Ultrasonic energy is targeted through the skull to the globus pallidus, a structure deep in the brain that helps control regular voluntary movement. “We have had great experience using this focused ultrasound technique in clinical trials and can now offer this less invasive treatment option to those with Parkinson’s symptoms,” said study co-author Paul Fishman, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at UMSOM and a neurologist at UMMC.


* For More Information, Contact:

Mark Derewicz, PR

Flavio Frohlich, PhD

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