AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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Brain Signals Deliver First Targeted Treatment for World’s Most Common Movement Disorder

Essential tremor is the world’s most common movement disorder, affecting an estimated 7 million people in the U.S. alone. The hallmark of this disease is an involuntary, rhythmic shaking during intentional movement, complicating everyday tasks like writing, eating and drinking. When resting or sleeping, however, most patients have few or no symptoms. The disease can be treated with a surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation, or DBS, where a neurosurgeon implants an electrode deep in the brain; this wire is then tunneled under the skin to a battery in the chest, which provides electrical stimulation that quiets the symptoms. In current use, however, these implanted devices are constantly “on” — delivering stimulation even when a patient doesn’t need it — which wastes valuable battery life.

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