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Medical News & Perspectives
November 21, 2007

Scientists Probe Deep Brain Stimulation

JAMA. 2007;298(19):2249-2251. doi:10.1001/jama.298.19.2249

Spurred by the success of deep brain stimulation (DBS) in treating thousands of patients with Parkinson disease or essential tremor, scientists are investigating whether the technique might also benefit patients with brain injury and refractory psychiatric disorders. Although such treatment remains far from the clinic, early findings suggest that DBS has promise, and researchers say it also may help to further elucidate normal and abnormal brain function.

DBS involves delivering electrical stimulation through electrodes surgically implanted in a targeted region of the brain. The stimulation, generated by a small battery-operated device, is believed to block or correct faulty brain signals. In the case of Parkinson disease and essential tremor, the technique blocks abnormal nerve signals that cause such symptoms as tremors, rigidity, stiffness, and walking problems. The scientists who developed the technique built on evidence that surgical lesions could block abnormal nerve signals and ease patients' movement-related symptoms, hypothesizing that the same effect could be achieved using targeted electrical stimulation.