Parkinson’s is an incurable degenerative disease of the nervous system. More than 1 million patients in the U.S. are affected by the disease, and more than 7 million worldwide. Symptoms include tremors, muscle stiffness, and slowed movement. Some prescription drugs can help alleviate some symptoms, and there are expensive and invasive surgical procedures that can implant electrodes to stimulate the portions of the brain that control movement. A group of students at Johns Hopkins developed what they think might offer a better solution.
The group has created a headband designed to use transcranial direct current stimulation (which is the same approach used by the mood-altering Thync device). Designed to be easy for a patient to put on and take off, the device has electrodes that stimulate targeted regions deep within the brain using a pattern of impulses. This approach is based on experimental clinical procedures developed at Johns Hopkins.
The prototype is designed to only provide a single 20-minute treatment per day, and the amount of stimulation is set by a physician. The group has not performed any human trials with the device, but another group of students is set to pick up the baton in September and move the project forward. If this device proves to be effective, it could be a low-cost way for Parkinson’s patients to get treatment in their own homes.