How a pacemaker should reduce behavioral disorders
Game, sex, buying or feeding addiction are possible behavioral problems that can be triggered by Parkinson's medication. A brain pacemaker gives patients with the neurological disease better control over their impulses - compared to patients who only rely on drug therapy. This emerges from an extensive study by a German-French research team. During therapy, thin electrodes are implanted in the patient's brain, which emit electrical impulses to the desired target region in order to stimulate them.
Parkinson's disease is one of the most common neurological diseases with more than four million people worldwide. “Due to the increasing average age, it can be expected that the number of those affected will double by 2030 to 8.7 million worldwide,” explains neurologist Professor Dr. Lars Timmermann in a press release from Philipps University Marburg, who participated in the study. Working groups from 18 European universities came together for the study. The results were published in the March issue of the specialist journal "Lancet Neurology".
Parkinson's medication can trigger behavioral disorders
According to Timmermann, the symptoms of Parkinson's disease are easy to treat using modern medication. "The drugs often caused serious behavioral disorders, especially in young patients," said the neurologist. These disorders include, for example, gambling addiction, too much desire for sex, eating attacks and pathological shopping frenzy.
The treatment starts directly in the brain nucleus
Symptoms of Parkinson's disease such as tremors, slow movement, or muscle stiffness are due to changes in nerve cell activity in deep regions of the brain. The approach of the brain pacemaker is therefore to start directly at deep brain nuclei and thus significantly reduce the drug administration. "We wanted to find out whether deep brain stimulation also reduces behavioral disorders," explains co-author Carmen Schade-Brittinger, who heads the coordination center for clinical studies at the Philipps University in Marburg.
Brain stimulation can improve the quality of life of those affected
The study observed 251 patients over a two-year period. On average, the subjects had been suffering from the disease for eight years. The first results came in a previous study by the team, which reported that patients with Parkinson's improved their quality of life if they received early brain stimulation in addition to medication. In the current study, the scientists once again addressed the topic using newly developed psychiatric assessment criteria.
The results speak for themselves
According to the doctors, the behavioral disorders of the patients decreased without showing any other neurological abnormalities such as apathy, depression or anxiety. "Our findings allow a change of course in treatment," summarizes Timmermann. With previous therapy, the occurrence of behavioral disorders was considered an obstacle to surgical interventions. However, the current study results suggest that such interventions for deep stimulation make sense in the event of loss of control.
Success of the brain pacemaker depends on the success of the operation
"The success of a brain pacemaker treatment always depends on an optimal operation," explains Professor Dr. Christopher Nimsky, head of Marburg neurosurgery, where such operations are performed. So far, only patients under the age of 61 have been included in the study. "Future studies will have to check whether the results can be applied to all age groups," says Timmermann.
About Parkinson's research
Parkinson's disease belongs to the so-called neurodegenerative disease, in which defective proteins in the central nervous system influence the movement of those affected. These so-called Lewy bodies are the typical sign of the disease. Another study on Parkinson's disease appeared recently, according to which excess calcium leads to the formation of toxic clusters. University of Cambridge researchers found that excessive amounts of the mineral in brain cells can lead to the formation of toxic clusters that are involved in the development of Parkinson's disease. (vb)