AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 1, 2020

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Overactive Brain Waves Trigger Essential Tremor

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The source of essential tremor — a movement disorder that causes involuntary trembling of the hands, arms, and head — has been enigmatic, impeding the development of effective treatments for a condition that affects 4% of people over 40.

Now a new study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian suggests the tremors are caused by overactive brain waves at the base of the brain, raising the possibility of treating the disorder with neuromodulation to calm the oscillations.  

“Past studies have identified changes in brain structure in people with essential tremor, but we didn’t know how those changes caused tremors,” says Sheng-Han Kuo, MD, the study’s senior author and assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. 

“This study pins down how those structural changes affect brain activity to drive tremor.”

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