It is estimated that about two in every thousand newly born infants have a condition known as cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, there is still no known cure for the condition. Cerebral palsy is directly affecting the brain of the baby, hindering its full development and specifically preventing motor and sometimes sensory capability. There are several promising medications and devices that are still being clinically tested to finally provide solutions to such inborn conditions.
Several scientists assert that zapping the human brain with a relatively mild electrical current could have the potential to help cerebral palsy patients. A hospital in Paris, France is particularly focused to this endeavor. A team of medical experts in Salpetriere University Hospital is looking at a technology that involves implanting a device into a patient’s body for brain stimulation. Such device appears physically similar to the ordinary pacemaker.
Initially, the new technology was implanted within 13 people who have been diagnosed to have cerebral palsy. All have dystonia-choreoathetosis, a usual and progressively developing movement disorder among many patients. It is estimated that about 10% of all cerebral palsy patients are afflicted with this condition. It is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that bring about movement disorder.
Initial finding of the clinical study suggest that such a deep brain stimulator could significantly improve movement problems that are common among cerebral palsy patients. It has been particularly helpful and effective in patients with primary dystonia. The devices could be implanted near the collar bone or in the abdomen. It is connected by a thin wire directly to the electrodes placed within the brain. There is a tiny generator that effectively sends minor electrical pulses that makes the brain control movement.
In the first set of clinical study, leads were attached to the brain’s globus pallidus, the brain region that is affected by cerebral palsy in dystonia patients. It was found that after about a year, most of the patients (8 out of 13) showed drastic improvements in basic motor symptoms. Improvement on movement rating accelerated to 55% in those eight patients, from the common average of just 21%.
Aside from bringing about targeted results, the device was also found to have effectively reduced pain and disability. In general, the patients were reported to have felt better. Their symptoms of mental health problems and depression were also trimmed. However, in five cases, the patients had to be treated with additional anti-anxiety medications.
However, while researchers conclude that the study promises good results, the research as well as the findings could and should still be interpreted with heightened caution. The clinical tests are calling for further and bigger studies to further evaluate the effectiveness of deep brains stimulation in possibly treating cerebral palsy. There should also be more studies to be conducted involving children.
It should also be noted that the device could be patterned after the regulation-approved stimulation devices that are now being used for treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Many human rights advocates are also expected to question and raise skepticisms over the potential of this promising technological treatment against cerebral palsy. It should always be noted that this technology is initially aimed at helping treat the condition, instead of totally curing it.
But who knows how effective and useful it could be? It could be the miracle device or medication cerebral palsy patients have been waiting for.