Charging toward hope

Deep brain stimulation helps patients recover lost function

 By Czerne M. Reid

Carefully applying electricity to the brain can reduce tremors and involuntary movements associated with Parkinson’s disease and a wide range of other conditions, and now a new compilation of major research findings and clinical recommendations is available to help guide referring physicians and other clinicians whose patients might benefit from the therapy.

In a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine, UF neurologist Michael S. Okun, M.D., co-director of the UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, describes refinements in the technique, called deep brain stimulation, or DBS, that allow physicians to tailor treatment based on the type and severity of symptoms patients are experiencing.

UF physicians use the approach for patients with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis-related tremors, Tourette syndrome and depression, as well as dystonia. UF is a Tyler’s Hope Center for Comprehensive Dystonia Care, one of the largest dystonia treatment facilities in the world.

“Deep brain stimulation has really undergone an evolution in the last 10-plus years — it’s gone from a crazy notion to put electrodes into the brain … to a cool concept … to something that is now accepted and even has FDA approval,” said Okun, who helped pioneer the use of DBS in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. “We’re entering an era in which therapy is tailored and personalized, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Deep brain stimulation involves implanting electrodes into the brain and delivering electrical charges that disrupt faulty nerve signals, typically in the parts of the brain that control voluntary movement and posture.

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