Latest in Science

Image credit:

How electrifying the brain wards off Parkinson's disease

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
April 14, 2015
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Implanting electrodes in the brain and zapping it helps patients with Parkinson's and other disorders, but doctors have never been sure why, exactly. Now, researchers from UC San Francisco think that the therapy (called deep-brain stimulation, or DBS) works by altering neural timings, in much the same way a defibrillator resets heart rhythms. In a healthy brain, neuron firing is controlled by low frequency rhythms that sync up movement, memory and other functions. But the UC team found that the synchronization is too strong in Parkinson's patients, making it harder for them to move voluntarily.

The brain needs a balance between autonomy and rhythm, which is where DBS comes in. The implants appear to lower the overly lock-step synchronization, improving patient coordination and other symptoms. But the invasive, six-hour-long surgery requires implanting probes into deep brain structures and the patient must be awakened mid-surgery to test it out -- so anything that can make it more effective is helpful. According to the researchers, "we can (now) begin to think of new ways for stimulators to be automatically controlled by brain activity, which is the next innovation in treatment for movement disorders."

[Image credit: Coralie de Hemptinne]

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

The 2020 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

The 2020 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

View
Scientists might know why astronauts develop health problems in space

Scientists might know why astronauts develop health problems in space

View
The best Cyber Monday tech deals that are worth your money

The best Cyber Monday tech deals that are worth your money

View
The best laptop deals we found for Cyber Monday

The best laptop deals we found for Cyber Monday

View
Apple's MacBook Air M1 drops to $899 for Cyber Monday

Apple's MacBook Air M1 drops to $899 for Cyber Monday

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr