Research highlight

How deep brain stimulation works in Parkinson’s disease

Nature Neuroscience

April 14, 2015

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) may work by reducing abnormally strong co-activation between of brain regions in patients with Parkinson’s disease, reports a paper published online in Nature Neuroscience. This may explain why DBS is an effective treatment for Parkinsonian locomotor deficits.

DBS is a surgical procedure where electrodes are implanted in the brain to deliver an electrical impulse. Precisely timed electrical stimulation is given to a specific brain region to correct abnormal neuronal activities and the therapeutic benefits are immediate. However, it is unclear how exactly DBS works to alleviate locomotor defects in patients with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

Coralie de Hemptinne and colleagues measured neural activities before, during and after DBS electrode implantation surgery in 23 PD patients. They revealed the manner and timing by which brain regions communicate with each other is reduced when DBS is administered, and that this ‘uncoupling’ occurs specifically in regions known to plan and execute body movements. This then allowed the uncoupled brain regions to engage in a task-relevant movement and the level of uncoupling was correlated with the degree of DBS’s therapeutic benefit.

The authors suggest that these findings may be used in future clinical studies to develop a ‘smart’ DBS device that could monitor brain activity and apply stimulation as needed. As DBS is also used to treat severe forms of neurological diseases such as chronic pain and major depression, this new study also provides a general mechanism by which DBS may be able to restore normal neural activities in other diseases.

doi: 10.1038/nn.3997

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