Parkinson's Disease

Frequently Asked Questions

19. What is deep brain stimulation?

Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, is a surgical procedure used to treat a variety of disabling disorders. It is most commonly used to treat the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Deep brain stimulation uses an electrode surgically implanted into part of the brain. The electrodes are connected under the skin to a small electrical device called a pulse generator, implanted in the chest. The generator and electrodes painlessly stimulate the brain to help stop many Parkinson's symptoms such as tremor, bradykinesia, and rigidity.

DBS is primarily used to stimulate one of three brain regions: the subthalamic nucleus, the globus pallidus, or the thalamus. Researchers are exploring optimal generator settings for DBS, whether DBS of other brain regions will also improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and also whether DBS may slow disease progression.

Deep brain stimulation usually reduces the need for levodopa and related drugs, which in turn decreases dyskinesias and other side effects. It also helps to relieve "on-off" fluctuation of symptoms. People who respond well to treatment with levodopa, even if only for a short period, tend to respond well to DBS.