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14 Pathological oscillatory activity in Parkinson’s disease; what does it mean and how should we treat it?
  1. Peter Brown
  1. Medical Research Council Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford


Professor Peter Brown is Professor of Experimental Neurology and Director of the Medical Research Council Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford. Prior to 2010 he was a Professor of Neurology at University College London.

For decades we have had cardiac pacemakers that adjust their pacing according to demand and yet therapeutic adaptive stimulation approaches for the central nervous system are still not clinically available. Instead, to treat patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease we stimulate the basal ganglia with fixed regimes, unvarying in frequency or intensity. Although effective, this comes with side-effects and in terms of sophistication this treatment approach could be compared to having central heating system on all the time, regardless of temperature. This talk will describe recent steps being taken to define the underlying circuit dysfunction in Parkinson’s and to improve deep brain stimulation by controlling its delivery according to the state of pathological activity.

Evidence is growing that motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease are due, at least in part, to excessive synchronisation between oscillating neurons. Recordings confirm bursts of oscillatory synchronisation in the basal ganglia centred around 20 Hz. The bursts of 20 Hz activity are prolonged in patients withdrawn from their usual medication and the dominance of these long duration bursts negatively correlates with motor impairment. Longer bursts attain higher amplitudes, indicative of more pervasive oscillatory synchronisation within the neural circuit. In contrast, in heathy primates and in treated Parkinson’s disease bursts tend to be short. Accordingly, it might be best to use closed-loop controlled deep brain stimulation to selectively terminate longer, bigger, pathological beta bursts to both save power and to spare the ability of underlying neural circuits to engage in more physiological processing between long bursts. It is now possible to record and characterise bursts on-line during stimulation of the same site and trial adaptive stimulation. Thus far, this has demonstrated improvements in efficiency and side-effects over conventional continuous stimulation, with at least as good symptom control in Parkinsonian patients.

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