Continued from previous pa​ge.

A pacemaker​ for the brain

In cases of Parkinson disease, a lack of dopamine, which is a crucial neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) for the proper transmission of nerve-cell signals, as well as other neurotransmitters, cause the transmission of nerve signals to go haywire.

​Associate Professor Prakash Kumar​, Senior Consultant Ne​urologist at the Department of Neurology​, National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) (Singapore General Hospital​ campus), a member of the SingHealth​ group says: “When the DB​​​S electrodes are switched on, they pump steady pulses of electricity to the brain, thereby changing the abnormal firing of neurons.”

While DBS may not fully cure Park​inson disease, it can successfully decrease the severity of its symptoms like tremors, stiffness, slowness and involuntary movements (known as dyskinesia).

“This means Parkinson patients regain control of their movements, although balance problems and non-motor symptoms like depression may still persist,” says Dr Kumar. “And as it is a chronic neurological disease, there will still be a need for patients to manage the condition long-term.”

Future use of DBS for other medical conditions

When it comes to treating movement disorders, DBS is actually not an experimental procedure.

Since 1997, DBS has helped improve symptoms in more than 100,000 patients with Parkinson and other movement disorders worldwide, including Singapore.

Meanwhile, scientific researchers are studying the use of DBS for other medical conditions, such as:​

  1. Obsessive compulsive disorder
  2. Treatment-resistant depression
  3. Post-traumatic stress disorder
  4. Treatment-resistant epilepsy
  5. Dementia
  6. Tourette syndrome
  7. Traumatic brain injury
  8. Chronic pain
  9. Multiple sclerosis

Dr Kumar observes: “DBS is definitely a potential treatment option for any condition where brain region​s are not functioning properly. But clinical trials for DBS to treat these medical conditions are still ongoing – it can be years before DBS can be employed in these ways here.”

See previous page for to learn how deep brain stimulation (DBS) is performed​.​

Ref: P16