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Why Does Deep Brain Stimulation Work?

By University of Florida Health Physicians Michael S. Okun, M.D., Hubert H. Fernandez, M.D., and Kelly D. Foote, M.D.

The mechanism of action for DBS remains unknown.  DBS may act by reversibly suppressing or normalizing neuronal (brain cell) activity through the activation of inhibitory interneurons (brain cells).  DBS may also act by creating an “informational lesion” within the motor and non-motor circuitry of the systems in the brain responsible for movement disorders.

Alternatively other complex neurological mechanisms such as depolarization block, interruption of cell bursting, or normalizing irregular and abnormally bursting brain cell patterns may all serve as possible mechanisms(6, 15).  It has been suggested that DBS may inhibit brain cells and excite brain fibers(6).

Its effects on neurotransmitters or chemicals in the brain remain unknown.  Disrupting one or more of the “basal ganglia” circuits seems to mysteriously lead to dramatic improvements in symptoms despite the fact we are uncertain of the mechanism.

If you have questions or would like a consultation to see if you are a candidate please call Chris Baughman at 352-294-5431 or email at Christopher.baughman@neurology.ufl.edu.