Exploring Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease (Video)

What happens when stimulating different parts of the brain?

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There’s no debate over whether Deep Brain Stimulation, or DBS, can help people with Parkinson’s Disease. The question has always been which part of the brain should be “stimulated.”

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The more popular target is the part of the brain called the subthalamic (sub-tha-lah-mik) nucleus or STN, while the less commonly targeted area is the globus (glow-bus) pallidus (pal-ih-dus) interna or GPi. But a new study finds stimulating the GPi may be just as good in improving motor symptoms long-term, compared to the STN.

Hubert Fernandez, MD, did not take part in the study but treats patients with Parkinson’s Disease at Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute. “This is the first study of hopefully many more to come, looking and comparing these most commonly used and most promising targets in Parkinson’s disease and how they do, not only motorically, but behaviorally, cognitively, improving quality, and also improving quality of life.” Dr. Fernandez says.


Researchers at Hines Veteran’s Administration Hospital and Loyola University studied the effects of deep brain stimulation on 159 Parkinson’s patients.

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They split them into two groups and stimulated their brains in two different areas. One group received DBS of the GPi. The other received DBS of the STN. They found performing DBS on both parts of the brain improved motor symptoms by an average of 32 percent over three years.

Stimulation of the GPi might also be better in preserving cognitive performance. Researchers believe the results can help pinpoint which areas of the brain benefit from the most from Deep Brain Stimulation.

Dr. Fernandez agrees. “Because of this one study, hopefully proven correct by succeeding studies, you will now see clinicians, neurologists, like myself, and neurosurgeons offering these two targets and giving an equal amount of credit for these two targets, and you will see a shift in the landscape in which targets to use in Deep Brain Stimulation surgery and Parkinson’s disease.”

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Complete findings for this study are in the journal Neurology.