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Thursday 27th October 2016

Brain pacemaker for Parkinson's

29th April 2010

A study involving over 300 patients has found that fitting the brain with an "electronic pacemaker" could treat Parkinson's disease more effectively than medication.

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The method is known as deep brain stimulation. It can improve symptoms of the disease such as trembling by activating parts of the brain that regulate movement.

Usually only a small proportion of patients with Parkinson's disease (one in 500) have surgery.

The technique involves putting a wire and electrodes into three areas of the brain. The electrodes can then be stimulated by a "neurostimulator" device which is put beneath the skin of the patient's torso.

The device passes electrical signals through the wire to the brain, blocking the messages that provoke Parkinson's effects.

The research, which lasted for a decade, received funding from the charity Parkinson's UK, the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health, and is thought to be the biggest trial conducted to date. 

The researchers studied 366 patients, who were given either surgery and medicine, or only medicine.

After a year the researchers, from Birmingham, Oxford, London, Liverpool and Bristol wrote in Lancet Neurology that the patients who had been given surgical treatment said they had "better quality of life".

Professor Keith Wheatley of the University of Birmingham told the BBC: "It is not a cure. What it does is help control symptoms more than medication alone."


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