Stimulating the brain - deep

September 11, 2014

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a neurosurgical technique for activating or inhibiting areas of the brain. The technique was developed in Germany as early as the 19th century as a method of researching brain areas by stimulating them electrically. However, since 1987, Deep Brain Stimulation has been used to neutralise areas of the brain. For example, nowadays patients with Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, essential tremor and Tourette syndrome can be treated using this technique. In the course of a 9-hour operation under local anaesthetic, a hole is bored in the skull. The electrode is passed through this to a precisely defined place in the brain. The pulse generator – an apparatus that produces electronic pulses – is implanted under the skin in the abdomen or under the collar bone. The electrical pulses that the apparatus transmits neutralise the brain signals that cause the motoric problems.

In the Maastricht UMC+, neurosurgeon Prof Yasin Temel and his team are conducting fundamental research into using DBS with the aim of developing new treatments for patients. For example, new research is focussing on the use of DBS in the case of psychiatric complaints and in neurogenesis – sending healthy brain cells to a specific area where there is a loss of brain tissue. In a model, Temel and his team discovered that stimulation attracted new brain cells. The question now is how to get them to the right place. In the long term, this could help people who have lost brain tissue as a result of a stroke, for example.

The DBS team at the MUMC+ consists of neurosurgeons, neurologists, a case manager, a nursing specialist, a psychiatrist, a neuropsychologist and a large group of paramedics.