Diagnostic imaging of a person's brain.

What is deep brain stimulation, anyway?


Whether you’ve recently heard about deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the news, heard of it from a friend of a friend, or you’re hearing about the term for the first time right now – allow us to explain.

What is DBS?

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment for Parkinson’s that involves the implantation of electrodes into certain areas of the brain to send electrical signals that help relieve motor symptoms such as tremors, rigidity, and slowness of movement. DBS can also be helpful for individuals who experience significant dyskinesias related to their dopamine-medication.

What’s the procedure like?

DBS is often compared to a heart pacemaker but for the brain. During the DBS procedure, a neurosurgeon implants electrodes in specific regions of the brain using advanced imaging techniques. The electrodes are connected by wires to a device called a neurostimulator, which is implanted under the skin of the chest. The neurostimulator sends electrical impulses to the electrodes in the brain, which then modulate the activity of the targeted brain circuits, improving Parkinson’s symptoms

Is DBS a Parkinson’s cure?

DBS is not a cure for Parkinson’s, but it can significantly reduce motor symptoms and improve quality of life. The treatment can also reduce the need for medication, and in some cases, people who undergo DBS may be able to reduce and/or temporarily eliminate their medications altogether.

All that said, it’s important to know that DBS is not suitable for everyone living with Parkinson’s, and the decision to undergo DBS should be made in consultation with the medical healthcare professional overseeing your Parkinson’s care.

Learn more about ways that Canadians can manage their Parkinson’s symptoms and continue to live well.

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