AlzForum (January 16, 2013): A Day in the OR: Surgeons Zap Neurons for Parkinson's, AD

Publication Date: 
Wed, 01/16/2013

The doctors crowd around the computer monitor, examining the brain scans of the man lying on their operating table down the hall. The metal headdress they have mounted to his cranium - or "stereotactic frame" in medical lingo - provides coordinates, a sort of 3-D GPS they will use to guide platinum-iridium electrodes deep into his brain. The electricity pulsing through those electrodes will temporarily short out his misfiring globus pallidus. Hopefully, that will provide relief from the slow, abnormal movements caused not only by Parkinson's disease, but also by the medications he has taken to control it for the past eight years. 

The 66-year-old man in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) operating room is Daniel Duran of Rolling Hills Estates, California. Duran has had PD since 2004. Like many people with his condition, he noticed that medications no longer work well. He freezes up during long "off" periods between doses, and his "on" periods after a dose last for only 90 minutes. Having to be near a chair as every on period ends makes it hard for Duran, a retired engineer, to keep up his schedule of walks, workouts, support group meetings and lunch dates. His state emulates that of Cinderella, recalled his wife Brenda Duran after the procedure - except "it is turning midnight every hour and a half."