New Australian research led by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has identified ways to make the most
widely-used advanced treatment for Parkinson’s disease - deep brain stimulation therapy - more effective and safer.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves implanting electrodes within the brain, which allows the delivery of focused
electrical currents to a small target region. The neurosurgical procedure has been shown to reverse some motor-related
symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including tremor, stiffness and slowness, with some patients even able to stop
QIMR Berghofer lead researcher and St Andrews War Memorial Hospital neuropsychiatrist Dr Philip Mosley said the
procedure was being used more frequently for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease because it reduces disability and
improves quality of life for several years, but it can also have harmful side-effects.
“Some patients develop new problems with controlling their impulses and behaving recklessly after this procedure, which
can give rise to personal problems and increase the strain on their families,” Dr Mosley said.
“We identified that when DBS affected certain parts of the brain, it was linked to impulsivity and harmful behaviour.”
He said knowing which connections were harmful or helpful would assist neurologists and neurosurgeons decide where best
to place the DBS electrodes and how to adjust the device postoperatively so that only regions of the brain responsible
for treating the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were stimulated.
The study findings have been published today in the journal Brain.