Researchers Find Neuro Biomarkers to Create Smart Brain Stimulators for Parkinson Treatment

Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement.

Image credit: University of Houston

Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms include muscle rigidity, tremors, and changes in speech and gait. After diagnosis, treatments can help relieve symptoms, but there is no cure.

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The established treatment for this condition is high-frequency brain stimulation. However, the therapy is imprecise because stimulators can only be programmed clinically and are not adaptable to the fluctuating symptoms of the disease. The key to improving the technology is biomarkers.

Now, researchers at the University of Houston have found neuro biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease that can help create the next generation of “smart” deep brain stimulators, able to respond to specific needs of Parkinson’s disease patients, reports Laurie Fickman of University of Houston.

“We can now make the closed-loop stimulator adaptive to sense a patient’s symptoms, so it can make the adjustments to the fluctuations in real time, and the patient no longer has to wait for weeks or months until the doctor can adjust the device,” said Nuri Ince, associate professor of biomedical engineering. He and doctoral student Musa Ozturk, lead author of the paper, published their findings in Movement Disorders journal.

Ezekiel W. Cullen Building, University of Houston (Image: Wikimedia commons)

The researchers also report a new understanding of the electrophysiology of Parkinson’s disease after examining cross frequency coupling in the subthalamic nucleus of patients with Parkinson’s disease both in the OFF state (before medication) and the ON state (after medication). Coupling, the interaction between the brain waves, has been reported in the past, but its significance and functional role have not been well understood.

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“Previous research showed coupling only existed in the basal ganglia of untreated patients and assumed to block the brain from functioning properly,” said Ozturk. “We found that strong coupling also exists in treated patients, though at different frequencies, so in effect we have ‘cleared coupling’s name’ and showed the frequencies involved in coupling impacts whether its effects are negative or positive.”

Sam Draper
August 6, 2019

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