Electrodes inside your brain: How was deep brain stimulation created?

31st Jan 2019

Brain and Neuroscience Advances HeaderDeep brain stimulation (DBS) has been able to help a lot of patients with movement disorders already and has an even more promising future. But how was it developed and what can be done to improve the technology? 

This is explained by a recent article by Pycroft, Stein and Aziz (2018) in ‘Brain and Neuroscience Advances', the BNA’s official journal. 

For deep brain stimulation electrodes are implanted in deep brain regions, where the activity of those areas can then be changed. Research into DBS first started with stimulation of the outside layer of the brain, the cerebral cortex, of animals in the 1800s. In the 1950s lesioning was used to treat tremors, which meant causing damage in a certain part of the brain to stop activity of the neurons involved in the tremors. 

Because levodopa was very effective at treating Parkinson’s, research into DBS was limited in the 60s. However, two decades later scientists realised that the resistance people developed to the drug and the side effects were more problematic than thought at first. Our understanding of the disease also improved, leading to potential targets in the brain for DBS in the 1990s. 

Nowadays, over 100,000 Parkinson's patients have been treated with DBS. The technology can still be optimised with more complex stimulation programmes, neuronal activity feedback being incorporated in stimulation and the simultaneous targeting of multiple brain areas in the future. This would mean that more conditions could be treated with more efficient technology. 

To access the full article, click here

Pycroft, L., Stein, J. and Aziz, T., 2018. Deep brain stimulation: An overview of history, methods, and future developments. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 2, p.2398212818816017.

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