Skip to main content

Stimulating the deep brain

Electrodes inserted into an area of the brain that plays a critical role in movement can alleviate Parkinson's symptoms

Bradley Greger
August 13, 2020

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects a specific area of the brain — the substantia nigra. It can result in tremors, a slowness of movement known as bradykinesia, uncontrollable muscle contractions known as dystonia, and difficulty with walking and balance.

Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, is a surgical procedure that’s been used to treat Parkinson’s for more than 20 years. Using magnetic resonance imaging, DBS electrodes are inserted into an area of the brain that plays a critical role in movement — either the subthalamic nucleus or the globus pallidus. A small impulse generator, similar to a pacemaker, is also implanted under the skin of the patient’s chest to provide electrical impulses to the electrodes in the brain. The electrical impulses reduce the patient’s symptoms and improves their ability to move.

Video by Deanna Dent/Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Arizona State University neuroscientist Bradley Greger has teamed up with Barrow Neurological Institute neurosurgeon Dr. Francisco Ponce to evaluate DBS for its possible use in treating other neurological disorders.

For the study, while the DBS electrodes are being implanted, a second, temporary implant is added to identify what’s happening in the brain during DBS treatment. Directly measuring the effect of DBS on brain activity will aid in extending the use of DBS in other neurological disorders.

Barrow Neurological patient Kimball Rogers and his family agreed to be part of the research. They are sharing their experiences to provide other Parkinson’s patients with information about the value of the procedure and the research.

Top photo: ASU Associate Professor Bradley Greger poses for a portrait in the operating room of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center on Aug. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. Greger's research and work focuses on neuroscience, bioengineering and data analysis. Photo courtesy of Gary L. Armstrong/St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center

More Science and technology


Graphic depiction of a membrane ion channel.

Chilling discovery: Cold-sensing protein may pave the way for safer pain relief

For millions of people worldwide who live with chronic pain, the only treatments currently available often rely on opioids, which carry the risks of addiction and overdose. However, new research…

Person in a white lab coat and blue gloves handling lab equipment to research stem cell technology.

Harnessing benefits of stem cells for heart regeneration

Mehdi Nikkhah, an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, and his collaborators at Mayo Clinic in Arizona have been…

Students seated at desks in a classroom listen to an unseen speaker.

Newly accredited ASU summer program opens up STEM opportunities for underrepresented students

It was Monday afternoon. Spotify was playing pop music in the background and the instructor stood behind a lectern wearing a paper Burger King crown. It is not a scene one would expect in a college…