Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinsons May Help Anxiety

Amy Hendel Health Guide
  • Very often in science research, a treatment will be studied for one condition and coincidentally it will be noted that it seems to also treat something else at the same time.  Viagra, which was a treatment for hypertension - was obviously noted to help men in other ways....and the rest is history. And sometimes before the actual research to prove the second treatment outcome happens - doctors will go ahead and use the drug "off label" because the results are so profound - even without clear research to back it up.


    Well, in this case, patients who were receiving deep brain stimulation as a treatment for Parkinson's disease seemed to get relief from obsessive-compulsive disorder (if it was present).  This was a small French study involving 16 patients - but 25% of the patients had their obsessive -compulsive disorder resolve completely.  The problem??  Serious side effects - in one case, bleeding in the brain.  The deep brain stimulation involved surgery and implantation of a pacemaker in their chest, which was then connected to electrodes inserted in their brain.  The pacemaker was turned on for 3 months and then turned off for 3 months - and neither the patients nor their doctors knew when the activation period was happening.

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    The area of the brain targeted was the subthalmic nucleus - responsible for motion, thinking and emotion.  Some unwanted side effects, in addition to the one patient with the bleeding episodes, were 2 cases of infection and the appearance of mania (went away when adjustments were made).  The challenge for the researchers? Getting even closer to finding the "exact sweet spot' that will benefit from the stimulation and yield better therapeutic results and deciding if the negative outcomes are worth the benefits from the treatment. 


    Currently the 16 subjects still have the implants and electrodes in place and in on position and they continue to be monitored.  More, I'm sure, to come from this study down the road.

Published On: November 13, 2008