"Turning off" Tremors

Ronnie Parsons

When Ronnie Parsons developed essential tremor, a nervous system disorder that affects the hands, he had to quit painting due to violent, unstoppable shaking. Treatment by the Surgical Therapies Improving Movement (STIM) program at the University of Michigan, co-directed by Kelvin Chou, M.D., and Parag Patil, M.D., Ph.D., allowed Mr. Parsons to regain control of his life. In a remarkable surgery, Dr. Patil placed electrodes into the tremor relay center of the brain. The deep-brain-stimulating electrode acts like a brain pacemaker, normalizing Mr. Parsons' movements. Research done by Drs. Chou and Patil, together with members of the STIM team, has made surgery like Mr. Parsons' faster, safer and more precise. Outreach by the program has spread understanding of the therapy throughout the region. As a result, Mr. Parsons and several hundred other patients with essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease can now "turn off" their tremors and pursue their passions once again. Drs. Chou and Patil aim to develop novel brain-stimulation therapies to treat other conditions, such as depression, dementia and pain.