Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease have been a challenge to get under control, as existing drugs and implantable neurostimulators often don’t work as well as was hoped. Scientists at University of Gothenburg in Sweden with some help from NASA have developed and are testing a new device that electrically stimulates the vestibular system to help improve balance and manage other symptoms of Parkinson’s.
The device essentially delivers a targeted electric noise signal via electrodes to a nerve in the ear responsible for balance. The technology was first tested on rats and demonstrated effectiveness to improve the animals’ balance and motor function. Now the device was tried with ten Parkinson’s patients who were not aware of when the signal was being delivered. The new results are quite promising, with patients having improved balance and overall reduction of symptoms.
The research team is already preparing the next generation of the device that will be considerably smaller and can be easily carried in a pocket. It will be tested in a longer study to determine whether the therapeutic effects continue to last and whether there’s any noticeable unwanted side effects.
From the study abstract in Brain Stimulation:
Patients did not detect when SVS [stochastic vestibular stimulation] was active, but SVS increased nausea after LDOPA in two patients. Mixed model analysis demonstrated that SVS improved balance corrections after a backward perturbation and shortened the postural response time. In static posturography there was significant interaction between effects of SVS, medication and proprioceptive input (standing on foam vs. on hard support) and SVS decreased the total sway-path with eyes closed and off medication.
As expected, LDOPA improved the UPDRS-III scores and MT. There was an interaction between the effect of SVS and LDOPA on UPDRS-III partly because of reduced UPDRS-III scores with SVS in the off-medication state.
Study in journal Brain Stimulation: Effects of Stochastic Vestibular Galvanic Stimulation and LDOPA on Balance and Motor Symptoms in Patients With Parkinson’s Disease…