Researchers have created a new tool that can track chemical changes in the brain as they happen in people undergoing Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). This technology can help analyze and adjust these chemicals in the brain to treat disorders like Parkinson's disease, depression or other disorders that occur due to chemical imbalances in the brain.
Researchers say that by understanding how the brain works, physicians can make informed choices about a treatment.
"We can learn what neurochemicals can be released by DBS, neurochemical stimulation, or other stimulation. We can basically learn how the brain works," said author Su-Youne Chang, PhD, of the Neurosurgery Department at the Mayo Clinic.
Researchers can see changes in the brain as they happen without relying on external feedbacks like tremors. They were able to observe real time changes in a neurotransmitter called adenosine.
"We can't watch pain as we do tremors. What is exciting about this electrochemical feedback is that we can monitor the brain without external feedback. So now, we can monitor neurochemicals in the brain and learn about brain processes like pain," said Kendall Lee, MD, PhD, a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon.
DBS has been shown to be effective in treating people with brain disorders. Tremors can be reduced in people by inserting DBS electrodes before electrical stimulation. Researchers say that this finding will lead to advanced DBS systems.
"With the stimulator and detection, we can create algorithms and then raise neurotransmitters to a specified level. We can raise these chemicals to appropriate levels, rising and falling with each person throughout their life. Within milliseconds, we can measure, calculate and respond. From the patient's perspective, this would be essentially instantaneous," said Kevin Bennet, a Mayo Clinic engineer who helped create the system.
Deep brain stimulation involves implanting electrodes within the part of the brain that regulates mood. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved deep brain stimulation for treatment of depression.
The study will be published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.