Monday, August 6, 2018

A look at Parkinson’s and its treatments

Each year, thousands of Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Today, around 1 million people living in the United States are afflicted with the progressive neurodegenerative disease. The disease causes severe malfunction with vital nerve cells and neurons in the brain such as the dopamine-producing neurons called substantia nigra, causing these neurons to wither and die. 

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The effect of the death of substantia nigra is the loss of dopamine, a chemical that is directly tied to a person’s movement and coordination. A substantial decrease in dopamine can cause tremors, speech changes, difficulty with basic movements, and stiffness in a person. These are all symptoms of Parkinson’s. 

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, there are ways to make life easier for the patient. One of the more sought-after treatments is deep brain stimulation or DBS. Through DBS, a neurostimulator is placed in the brain. The electrodes of the device are implanted into the target brain area, while the implanted pulse generator sends electrical pulses to stimulate the brain. The pulses travel through an insulated wire. 

There are few side-effects with DBS, and it has been very much preferred over dated surgery techniques for Parkinson’s. However, it must be noted again that DBS is not a cure. Part of the treatment includes medication, which should be taken according to doctor’s instructions. 

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Dr. Curtis Cripe is a neuroengineer with a background that includes child neurodevelopment, among other disciplines. He is also the head of the Research and Development Department of the NTL Group. For more on Dr. Cripe and his work, follow this Facebook page.