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Deep Brain Stimulation Helps Parkinson's Patients Drive

Update Date: Dec 18, 2013 07:52 PM EST

Parkinson's disease can seriously lower quality of life by impairing patients' ability to complete everyday tasks. However, a new study reveals that deep brain stimulation may help Parkinson's patients drive.

Deep brain stimulation uses a surgical implant that is similar to a pacemaker to send electrical impulses to the brain.

The latest study involved 23 people who had deep brain stimulators, 21 people with Parkinson's disease who did not have stimulators and 21 people who did not have Parkinson's disease.

All participants had driven at least once a week for more than 30 minutes within the previous three years. Participants were tested with a driving simulator. Participants with brain stimulators completed the test three times: once with the stimulator on, once with it off and once with the stimulator off and after they were given the Parkinson's drug levodopa.

The findings revealed that Parkinson's patients who did not have brain stimulators performed worse than the control participants in every category except one. However, patients with brain stimulators did not perform significantly worse than the controls in any category, and even performed better in the category of slight errors.

Study results revealed that those with stimulators had an average of 3.8 slight driving errors on the test, compared to 7.5 for the controls and 11.4 for those with Parkinson's disease who did not have stimulators.

The findings also revealed that people on brain stimulation made less driving errors than when they were on levodopa. After looking at tests of people with stimulators when they were turned on or off and off with levodopa, researchers found that patients made an average of 13 errors during the test on levodpa, 11 with stimulation and 14 with neither treatment.

The findings are published in the journal Neurology

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