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`Brain pacemaker` may help alleviate Parkinson`s symptoms

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 19:53

Washington: In a breakthrough, scientists have successfully discovered how to identify abnormal brain rhythms associated with Parkinson`s, paving way for gen-next therapeutic devices for the disease.

The work by a team of scientists and clinicians at The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) sheds light on how Parkinson`s disease affects the brain, and is the first time anyone has been able to measure a quantitative signal from the disease within the cerebral cortex - the outermost layers of the brain that helps govern memory, physical movement and consciousness.

"Normally the individual cells of the brain are functioning independently much of the time, working together only for specific tasks," said neurosurgeon Philip Starr.

But in Parkinson`s disease, he said, many brain cells display "excessive synchronisation," firing together inappropriately most of the time.

"They are locked into playing the same note as everyone else without exploring their own music," Starr said in a statement.

This excessive synchronisation leads to movement problems and other symptoms characteristic of the disease, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The new work also shows how deep brain stimulation (DBS), which electrifies regions deeper in the brain, below the cortex, can affect the cortex, itself.

This discovery may change how DBS is used to treat Parkinson`s and other neurologically based movement disorders, and it may help refine the technique for other types of treatment.

Similar to putting a pacemaker inside a heart patient`s chest, deep brain stimulation requires a neurosurgeon to implant electrodes inside tiny parts of the brain, to deliver electrical current.

In Parkinson`s, these electrodes are generally implanted in people who have mid-stage disease and cannot obtain full benefit from commonly used drugs due to complications - about 10 to 15 per cent of all patients with the disease.

Deep brain stimulation can free them of severe mobility problems and other symptoms, helping them live with much improved motor function for many years.

Eventually the progressive nature of Parkinson`s disease overwhelms the ability of deep brain stimulation to alleviate symptoms, researchers said.


First Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 19:53

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