Deep Brain Stimulation

Wow. Our weekly maths/physics seminar at WIT is often interesting, but today was something else again. Professor Anraoi de Paor of University College Dublin gave an astonishing talk entitled ‘ Deep Brain Stimulation for the Relief of Symtoms of Parkinson’s Disease’.

The talk concerned recent work by the French neurosurgeon Alim Benabid, who has pioneered a surgical technique that alleviates syptoms of Parkinson’s disease (tremors and gait abnormailites) using external electrical stimulation of the brain. Benabid’s technique has been amazingly successful. However, little is known as to why it works, although a physiological explanation based on a feedback suppression model was put forward in 2005 by Haeri et al.

The Haeri model is based on the theory of ‘dither injection’ along with concepts of nonlinearity. It turns out Professor de Paor had studied contol circuit models exactly like this in the 1970s, and he was able to apply his analysis to the Haeri model. As a result de Paor can give a straightforward explanation for the effect in terms of control theory. (Technically, he suggests that the application of a particular type of non-linear stimulus inhibits the destructive feedback loops in circuits).

Between the three groups, this is amazing science. De Paor showed some videos of the effect of the external stimulation on Parkinson patients, absolutely stunning. Now, with a straightforward underlying explanation of how it works, it seems an even more promising technique. Best of all, it is expected that Benabid’s technique may be be also effective in the treatment of other conditions such as epilepsy, obsessive compulsive disorders, etc as described here.

Wish my own research had this sort of application!

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