How does deep brain stimulation (DBS) treat Parkinson's disease?
Deep brain stimulation improves movement in people with Parkinson's disease by altering the electrical activity in the brain. Biomedical engineer Sri Sarma, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, explains how DBS works and who could beneifit from DBS.
SRI SARMA: For the first 5 to 10 years, a Parkinson's patient is responsive to medications.
But as they start getting into the later years, seven years, eight years, 10 years, they will become less effective.
There had to be a better solution. [MUSIC PLAYING]
I actually trained entirely as an electrical engineer, as a control theorist. So I was doing mathematics. But I always had a fascination with the brain.
So I minored in neuroscience. And when we learned about the motor system, we also learned about movement disorders, one of them
being Parkinson's disease. And I knew that I had an aunt who was a very strange case.
She was diagnosed at the age of 28. So when I was taking this class, we had a project, a class project to do. And what I did is I decided to go visit my aunt.
All I saw were her symptoms and her side effects of her medications. Her dyskinesias were so bad that she'd be on the ground
with her limbs flailing. And sometimes she'd even get nosebleeds because her own leg is kicking herself in her face.
If she's off those medications, she's frozen. She can't move. But if she's on these medications, she's moving uncontrollably.
Why? Because remember, this medication is a therapy. It's not a cure. So that's when DBS comes in as your alternative, Deep Brain
Stimulation. So what is it? It basically has three components. You have your electrode, which is a small lead, which
is implanted into-- drilled into the brain. So it's a chronic implant. The end of it, one end is basically
targeted at the brain. The tip of the electrode is in some brain region. At the other end is connected to a wire or an extension.
That wire is then connected to the third component, which is your neurostimulator. It's like your battery pack, which sits under the clavicle.
And so by putting a DBS system into a human being, you're actually altering the electrical activity
of the neurons in the tissue that's activated by the DBS signal. I think one day there will be a cure.
I think once we find out the origins and why this happens, we can.
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