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£200k brain research grant for Aston team

13 February 2008 – for immediate release

A research team from Aston University in Birmingham has received a substantial grant from the Parkinson’s Disease Society (PDS), which could pave the way for new treatments into the condition.

The Aston team will be directed by Dr Ian Stanford to carry out a 36-month study that aims to better understand and improve electoral stimulation therapies that are used as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery involves the insertion of a metal electrode into the brain, which is then connected to an external battery-powered stimulator that is placed in the chest wall.

Until now, Deep Brain Stimulation surgical treatments have focused on the subthalamic nucleus (STN) area of the brain because the electrical activity of the nerve cells is upset in Parkinson’s. About 70-80% of patients who undergo surgery will experience some benefit from the procedure. However, more recent research has suggested that electrical stimulation of another area of the brain, the motor cortex, may also provide symptomatic relief for some people with Parkinson’s.

The research group at Aston will assess the changes in communication between the motor cortex and the STN regions of the brain that occur in Parkinson’s. This will help to improve our understanding of why DBS provides relief from the symptoms of Parkinson’s and to extend our knowledge of how the motor cortex may control the activity of the STN region of the brain. The research will open up the possibility of alternative and perhaps non-invasive treatments for Parkinson’s.

Dr Ian Stanford from Aston said: ‘We are delighted that funding from the PDS has given us the opportunity to investigate new avenues in the treatment of Parkinson’s.’

Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Development at the PDS said: ‘Deep Brain Stimulation has already proven to be a very effective treatment in Parkinson’s disease so we hope that this work will extend further the benefits that it already offers and give rise to the development of new treatment methods.

‘We only fund research of the highest quality and it is the generosity of our supporters that enable us to fund projects such as this. All of our work is funded by voluntary donations and in 2007 we were able to spend £4.6 million on Parkinson’s research.’

ENDS

Notes for editors

For media enquiries contact Sally Finn, Senior Press Officer at Aston University on 0121 204 4552 or Jill Davis at the Parkinson’s Society on 020 7932 1335.

1. The exact value of the grant is £203,059.

2. The Parkinson's Disease Society (PDS) is the UK's leading authority on the condition. It campaigns for a better quality of life for people with Parkinson's wherever they live in the UK, provides expert information on all aspects of Parkinson's and a local support network for people with Parkinson's, their carers, families and friends. It is the UK's leading non-commercial funder of research into the cause, prevention and improved management of Parkinson's and is confident that its work will help lead to a cure.

3. A free phone helpline which provides help and advice to all people affected by Parkinson's can be reached by calling 0808 800 0303 Monday – Friday 09:30am – 09:00 pm and Saturday 09:30am – 05:30pm.

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