Parkinson’s Disease – Bionics Institute

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that affects around 75,000 Australians. It is caused by the progressive loss of certain nerve cells located in a brain area that is crucial for normal movement. This leads to a progressive and debilitating loss of motor function with typical symptoms of tremor in the arms and legs, muscle stiffness, stooped posture, and a slow, shuffling gait. Unfortunately, up to thirty percent of patients do not obtain adequate symptom relief with conventional medications: however, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an effective treatment option. While existing DBS systems significantly improve quality of life, they have several shortcomings that can lead to poor or variable symptom relief and other complications. For this reason, the Bionics Institute embarked on an extensive research program to produce an advanced DBS system with many innovative features.

How does Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) work with Parkinson’s disease?
DBS is a surgical procedure used to treat disabling neurological symptoms. DBS uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device similar to a heart pacemaker to deliver electrical stimulation to specific areas in the brain that affect movement. The DBS system consists of electrode arrays implanted in both sides of the brain and extension leads that connect to a stimulator implanted under the skin. The stimulator delivers the electrical pulses to the brain which block or alter abnormal neural activity. This alleviates the motor symptoms in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.

The DBS system we are developing has many advancements in design and function compared to currently available devices. The improved components of our DBS system have undergone several design iterations and extensive testing for safety, durability, and effectiveness.

Learn about our Parkinson’s disease research

Living with tremor

David’s symptoms of Parkinson’s disease made it impossible to do many tasks of day to day living. He was diagnosed with tremor dominant drug-resistant Parkinson’s over five years ago, and received DBS treatment last year.

“When I’m shaking flat out I cannot use cutlery. I cannot prepare food. I can’t drive. With the DBS therapy I’ve got a slight speech impediment as a side effect but that is nothing compared to the shortcomings of the tremor left untreated.”

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