Surgically implanted device used to control symptoms of Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and dystonia

Deep brain stimulation, also known as DBS, may enable patients suffering from some movement disorders and related symptoms — despite optimized pharmacotherapy — to have greater control over their movements.

Neurologists and neurosurgeons have used electrical stimulation since the 1960s as a way to locate and distinguish specific sites in the brain. During the process, they discovered that stimulation of certain brain structures suppresses the symptoms of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and dystonia.

How Deep Brain Stimulation Works

Deep brain stimulation uses a surgically implanted medical device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, to deliver carefully controlled electrical stimulation to precisely targeted areas in the brain. It works by electrically stimulating specific structures that control unwanted symptoms.

For Parkinson's disease and dystonia*, those structures are the subthalamic nucleus (STN) or globus pallidus interna (GPi). For essential tremor, the target site is the ventral intermediate nucleus of the thalamus (Vim).

Unilateral (for essential tremor) or bilateral (for Parkinson's disease and dystonia) leads are surgically implanted in the brain and connected to one or more neurostimulators implanted near the collarbone. The neurostimulator contains a small battery and computer chip programmed to send electrical pulses to control symptoms. The stimulation may be programmed and adjusted non-invasively by the clinician to help maximize symptom control and minimize side effects.

Learn more about Deep Brain Stimulation from the Experts

Related Resources

Parkinson Disease Association of the Rockies

Medtronic DBS