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Benabid Presents Shy Lecture

By Shannon Garnett

Dr. Alim-Louis Benabid, chairman of neurosurgery at the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, recently presented this year's G. Milton Shy lecture on deep brain stimulation (DBS) — a new approach to the treatment of tremor and other neurological disorders. Benabid, who developed the procedure and is considered a pioneer in the field of neurosurgery, described the technique in his lecture "Does High Frequency Stimulation Excite or Inhibit Neural Structures?"

Tremor, a rhythmic, involuntary muscular contraction characterized by to-and-fro movements of the body, is a common symptom of Parkinson's disease (PD) and is the principal feature of essential tremor. DBS — a technique that uses an implanted electrode to deliver continuous high-frequency electrical stimulation to parts of the brain that control movement such as the thalamus, globus pallidus or subthalamic nucleus — suppresses tremor. The technique also relieves other symptoms of PD such as bradykinesia and rigidity.

Dr. Alim-Louis Benabid

Unlike ablative surgery — which had long been one of the treatments of choice for these disorders — DBS does not destroy brain tissue and is thus less risky. In addition, the benefits of DBS appear to be long-lasting. There is now evidence that DBS may also slow progression of PD.

Benabid was the first person to use DBS — initially developed to treat pain — in patients with tremor and PD. Now scientists are applying it to a variety of disorders including other movement disorders and epilepsy.

The Shy visiting professorship was established in 1971 to honor the memory of Dr. G. Milton Shy, who developed the NINDS intramural program and became the institute's first clinical director and first chief of its Medical Neurology Branch. Three institutions — NIH, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania — on which Shy had a great impact take turns selecting the Shy professor who then visits all three institutions in the year of selection. Benabid is the first neurosurgeon to receive this honor.

Benabid also presented a talk on the "Current and Future Applications of High Frequency Deep Brain Stimulation to Functional Neurosurgery" at NINDS clinical grand rounds during his visit.

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