Movement disorders such as Tourette’s and Parkinson’s were primarily treated with medications intended to help alleviate symptoms like tics, slurred speech, and limited mobility. Medications, however, do not provide adequate relief for many patients. That’s where deep brain stimulation comes in.
What is deep brain stimulation? The brain is said to contain about 100 billion neurons which are linked together. These links are called “synapses.” Neurons communicate and send commands to the body by firing electrical signals along these pathways inside the brain. Although doctors are still learning more about deep brain stimulation, it’s believed to repair, restore, or restructure synapses in patients with neurological conditions, as electricity stimulates specific groups of neurons.
During deep brain stimulation surgery, a neurosurgeon inserts fine wires into the patient’s brain, targeting highly precise locations that are responsible for controlling specific functions. Although patients are fully numbed to ensure they feel no pain, they aren’t given sedatives, so they remain awake and alert throughout the surgical procedure. This way, the surgeons can request that the patient performs various tasks such as lifting their arm. These tasks allow the surgeons to locate the correct neurons to stimulate and determine an effective level of therapeutic stimulation.
Although deep brain stimulation is a procedure that still requires a lot more research, the idea of using it to relieve the symptoms of movement disorders is extremely exciting.