MJF Foundation Podcast

In this podcast from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Kevin Kwok discusses his experience after having deep brain stimulation surgery. Advances in the technique promise a future where stimulation can be fine tuned for individual needs and thus, perhaps, reduce the side effects associated with DBS.

While selective activation of the brain has proven to relieve many symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, such as tremors, rigidity, and gait issues, DBS has obtained very selective application approvals from the FDA. Many new studies look at deep brain stimulation for use with “mental health issues” and is most commonly associated, especially in the Parkinson’s community, with the work of reducing tremors; but it’s also gained some ground in the area of chronic pain relief. It is this application that I think most exciting for the HD community.

Huntington’s patients commonly have uncommon reactions to prescription medications. Sometimes pain relieving medications have limited effectiveness, while others create exaggerated side effects. Add to this the complexity of chronic pain in general, and the HD patient’s increasingly dysfunctional interpretations of pain and neuron messaging, and effectively treating chronic pain in the HD patient can become a series of guesses; in which doctors, patients and caregivers spends months or years testing approach after approach to relieve pain.

But DBS could be exciting for any number of reasons, once its mechanisms are more fully understood. Fox’s foundation is highlighting some really interesting research that is producing real time results with actual patients, not just early stage mouse studies, and this is yet another area that should be given serious attention.