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Are brain pacemakers still effective in treating Parkinson's disease?

Are brain pacemakers still effective in treating Parkinson's disease?
22nd June 2012

Deep brain stimulation (DBS), known as a brain pacemaker, is used to treat Parkinson's disease, but while effective for controlling motor function, it can cause other problems.

This is the finding of a new study published in the medical journal the American Academy of Neurology.

According to the paper's first author Dr Frances M Weaver, DBS can cause patients to experience a lower quality of life and diminished cognitive abilities.

The DBS procedure is used in those with Parkinson's Disease that no longer respond to medication and works by drilling a small hole in the skull, through which an electrode is inserted approximately four inches into the brain.

A wire then connects the electrode to a battery implanted near the collarbone and mild electrical signals are delivered to the brain to reorganise electrical impulses that cause motor complications.

However, when researchers evaluated 89 patients who underwent DBS, it was found that the procedure had negative effects in quality of life and cognition.

Nonetheless, the efficacy of the treatment in addressing motor function cannot be ignored and previous studies have suggested it could hold benefits for other degenerative brain conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease.

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