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MDLinxSweet-spot Brain Stimulation May Halt Parkinson’s Progression

The study, published in the Annals of Neurology, was led by Mallory Hacker, PhD, MSCI, and senior author David Charles, MD.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Charité-Berlin University of Medicine have discovered that targeted deep brain stimulation (DBS) may have the potential to slow or halt the progression of early-stage Parkinson’s disease.

Key Points:

  • The research offers hope to the nearly 100,000 new Parkinson’s cases diagnosed annually.
  • Dr. Charles has been studying DBS for early-stage Parkinson’s for more than 20 years at Vanderbilt.
  • Historically, treatments only temporarily alleviated Parkinson’s symptoms without affecting disease progression.
  • The FDA approved DBS for certain advanced Parkinson’s symptoms in 1997 and expanded its approval in 2002.
  • A pilot study from more than 15 years ago showed that 1 out of 3 patients with early-stage Parkinson’s experienced halted disease progression post-DBS.
  • Of the 15 patients in the pilot, five showed no motor symptom progression after two years.

Additional Points:

  • DBS treatment requires the patient to be awake during the procedure to ensure electrode placement accuracy.
  • The breakthrough in understanding DBS’s potential came when Dr. Hacker collaborated with Dr. Horn in Berlin.
  • Patients with electrodes closer to the optimal “sweet spot” managed symptoms with fewer drugs and lower implant stimulation settings.
  • This is the only study examining the underlying progression of motor symptoms in relation to DBS.


  • Although the results are promising, they are considered “hypothesis-generating” and further research is needed before changing clinical practice. The FDA has approved a pivotal multicenter study led by the Vanderbilt team to further investigate.

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“With this finding we may be able to target or plan better where to put the lead, but then, after the lead is in, have very precise stimulation to capture some areas and avoid some areas of stimulation.”

David Charles, MD
Professor and Vice-Chair of Neurology
Vanderbilt University
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