How Deep Brain Stimulation changes the human brain

Structural plasticity in Parkinson's diseaseOur latest work on the effects of deep brain stimulation (DBS) on the structure of the brain has been combined in a book chapter published in “The Rewiring Brain” by Elsevier. In this book chapter we get to show you how exactly DBS works on the brain and which brain regions show specific changes after continued stimulation of the deeper parts of the brain. Most of this knowledge comes from patients with Parkinson’s disease where DBS is used as a last resort treatment when medication fails to alleviate the symptoms successfully.

As can be seen from the image, the changes we have observed after 6 months of continuous stimulation are located throughout the brain, but do not effect the entire brain equally. Some areas are more affected than others, whereas some brain areas show no changes as all. When the structure of the brain changes, it is of course also very likely to see changes in the brain function. One obvious behavioural change that we can observe is the reduction in symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease, including motor symptoms. Interestingly, patients receiving this type of treatment often show improvements and changes in other behavioural areas as well, such as their sense of smell.

The sense of smell is well known to be one of the most common symptoms on Parkinson’s disease occurring in up to 90% of patients. There have been studies in the past that show that these patients improve in certain areas of smell after receiving DBS treatment. Here we can also show that those brain areas involved in the sense of smell show structural changes after prolonged stimulation.

Other ways to show how DBS affects both brain structure and function is also described in our latest paper in Scientific Reports where we investigate the functional brain dynamics in patients with DBS. There we see a remarkable resemblance regarding the brain areas affected compared to the areas where we find long-term structural changes.

Source: Neural Plasticity in Human Brain Connectivity: The Effects of Deep Brain Stimulation – The Rewiring Brain – Chapter 25