Parkinson's Disease

Electric Stimulation Tested on Parkinson's Patients

A release from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden reports that researchers at the university’s Sahlgrenska Academy have tested the use of noisy electric stimulation to change the activity of the brain in order to improve motor skills and balance for Parkinson’s patients. The study was published in January 2015 in the scientific journal Brain Stimulation and was conducted in cooperation with researchers at NASA.

The release explains that Parkinson’s disease is a slowly degenerative neurological disorder that is expressed as impaired motor control, tremors, stiffness and, in later stages, problems with balance. The symptoms are caused by a lack of the signal substance dopamine and are traditionally treated with medication. However, balance problems do not usually improve much with pharmacological treatment.

Improved balance

The 10 patients in the Gothenburg trial were studied in both medicated and unmedicated states. On one day, the patients received an active noise stimulation and on another day inactive treatment, blinded to which day the current was active. The experiments showed that the active noise stimulation improved both the patients’ balance and the combined symptoms.

The release quotes lead author Associate Professor Filip Bergquist as saying, “The effect on balance was particularly apparent when the patients were in the unmedicated state, which is very positive.”

Pocket stimulator

In a follow-up study over a longer time, the researchers will have the Parkinson’s patients wear a stimulator that is smaller than a wallet and can be carried in the pocket.

“If the long-term treatment improves the patients’ walking, balance and symptom variations, we could in the next five years develop the noise stimulation technique and introduce it as a new treatment,” says Filip Bergquist.

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