In the wake of his father’s death earlier this week, actor Ryan Reynolds rallied his fans through social media, asking for their support and donations for Parkinson’s disease research. In 2008 in an essay for the Huffington Post, Reynolds wrote, “I've watched my father – a strong and proud person who successfully raised 4 arguably insane children – slowly, cruelly stripped of his independence. His golden years robbed without explanation. It quite obviously sucks. Witnessing my Dad suffer over the years galvanized my need to step up."
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Parkinson's disease is a motor system disorder which results from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Some of the primary symptoms include tremors, rigidity and balance problems. As these symptoms worsen, patients may have difficulty walking, talking or completing other everyday tasks. Parkinson’s disease affects an estimated 500,000 to 1 million Americans, usually men and women over the age of 60.
Currently there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but medication and therapy are used to treat its symptoms. Neurosurgeons at Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and UTHealth Medical School offer patients a highly specialized treatment called deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS is a surgical treatment option that involves the implantation of a device that acts like a pacemaker for the brain, sending mild electrical signals to specific parts of the brain. The signals reorganize the brain's electrical impulses, resulting in improved symptoms for many neurological conditions.
“By implanting this electrode, we can drive the motor system to function in a way that causes motor behavior to be sustained and beneficial,” said Albert Fenoy, MD, UTHealth neurosurgeon at Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center who is also affiliated with MNI. “Although this procedure is not a cure for Parkinson's disease and does not slow down its progression, it can dramatically reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease and improve the quality of life for many patients.”