Improvements in deep brain stimulation therapy
Stichting de Weijerhorst is gifting more than two million euros to Maastricht UMC+ to support a research project aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease. Neuroscientists are using advanced imaging technologies to search for the fundamental neuro-processes and subtle changes in the brain that contribute to the disease. Their aim is to introduce refinements to deep brain stimulation that will improve the effectiveness of this therapy as well as prognoses of the disease.
Deep brain stimulation can help manage Parkinson's disease. The treatment involves placing electrodes on specific areas of the brain to suppress certain physical symptoms, for example the characteristic hand tremors. Every patient has different needs, however, and the electrodes must constantly be readjusted. For doctors to optimise this treatment, they require a better understanding of how the brains of Parkinson's patients function. Stichting de Weijerhorst is giving Maastricht's researchers the opportunity to explore this.
The byways of the brain
The underlying cause of Parkinson's disease is still a medical mystery. We know that short circuits occur in various parts of the brain. Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus has the most powerful MRI machine in the world, a 9.4 Tesla, allowing researchers there to examine the brain in even greater detail. "So far we've explored the motorways and trunk roads of the brain," says neurosurgeon Prof. Yasin Temel. "Now we're going to explore the byways of the brains of Parkinson's patients. That will generate new and valuable information, so that we can personalise treatment and apply it even more efficiently."
The researchers expect that using a powerful MRI machine will help them visualise subtle changes in the brain more accurately. Brain activity is dynamic and differs from one patient to the next. The electrodes therefore need to be adjusted on occasion. Having a better understanding of the changes occurring in the brain makes it easier to predict how the disease is likely to unfold in individual cases. The ultimate goal is to develop a new type of electrode that will self-adjust based on the individual patient's brain activity.
Prof. H.M.N. Schonis, chairman of Stichting De Weijerhorst, emphasises the importance of supporting this research project. "We regard it as one of our tasks to encourage advances in medicine. There is still much uncertainty about the causes of Parkinson's disease. Fortunately, there are treatments that can alleviate patients' suffering somewhat. If we can help researchers understand the disease better and improve its diagnosis and treatment, then we are happy to lend our support."