AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 1, 2018


Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Temporarily Improves Motor Symptoms in People with Parkinson’s Disease

In a study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, a team of Johns Hopkins University scientists experimented with joysticks that measured force in order to study the brain’s cost/benefit analysis in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Their experiment used a small group of 20 patients with PD and demonstrated that stimulation of the cortex of the brain using external electrodes corrected some of the distortion and temporarily improved some patients’ motor symptoms. “The loss of dopamine associated with Parkinson’s disease makes the effort required to move the affected side of the body seem greater, so the brain is less willing to use that arm to complete tasks,” said the study’s senior author. “Our study suggests that direct current stimulation can compensate somewhat for the loss of dopamine by decreasing the effort the brain has to put into getting its motor neurons to fire.” In another experiment involving 10 patients, researchers found that one form of stimulation, known as cathodal tDCS, worked best and that the patients who got such stimulation were more willing to engage their affected arm than those who received no stimulation, or anodal stimulation. The researchers also saw a related decrease in the variability associated with these patients’ movements. Importantly, they observed that the stimulation produced an average improvement of 25 percent in the motor symptoms of the patients, as quantified via the motor component of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), particularly improving rigidity on the affected side. To read more about this study, click here.

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