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Vol. LXII, No. 13
June 25, 2010

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  An illustration of DBS for Parkinson’s disease. Fine wires are implanted within brain regions involved in motor control and stimulation is controlled by a pacemaker-like device under the skin.  
  An illustration of DBS for Parkinson’s disease. Fine wires are implanted within brain regions involved in motor control and stimulation is controlled by a pacemaker-like device under the skin.  

Deep Brain Stimulation at Two Different Targets Produces Similar Motor Improvements in Parkinson’s Disease

In a major study, investigators have compared how individuals with Parkinson’s disease respond to deep brain stimulation (DBS) at two different sites in the brain. Contrary to current belief, patients who received DBS at either site in the brain experienced comparable benefits for the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.

The results appeared in the June 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. This is the latest report from a study that has followed nearly 300 patients at 13 clinical sites for 2 years. The study was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Additional support was provided by Medtronic, Inc., makers of the DBS systems used in the study.

“These results establish that DBS delivered to these two brain areas linked to key motor control pathways can have equivalent effects on tremor, stiffness and other motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, NINDS deputy director. “The important question now becomes how stimulation at each site affects some of the other important, non-motor symptoms and how to best individualize DBS therapy.”

Novel Therapeutic Approach Shows Promise Against Multiple Bacterial Pathogens

A team of scientists from government, academia and private industry has developed a novel treatment that protects mice from infection with the bacterium that causes tularemia, a highly infectious disease of rodents, sometimes transmitted to people, and also known as rabbit fever. In additional experiments with human immune cells, the treatment also demonstrated protection against three other types of disease- causing bacteria that, like the tularemia bacteria, occur naturally, can be highly virulent and are considered possible agents of bioterrorism. The experimental therapeutic works by stimulating the host immune system to destroy invading microbes. In contrast, antibiotics work by directly attacking invading bacteria, which often develop resistance to these medications. The therapeutic has the potential to enhance the action of antibiotics and provide an alternative to them.

“A therapeutic that protects against a wide array of bacterial pathogens would have enormous medical and public health implications for naturally occurring infections and potential agents of bioterrorism,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “This creative approach is a prime example of public-private partnerships that can facilitate progress from a basic research finding to new, desperately needed novel therapeutics.”

Dr. Catharine Bosio and her colleagues at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont., led the study, which was published online in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens.

Drug Substitutes for Training in Rats, Inducing a Memory of Safety

Researchers have found a way to pharmacologically induce a memory of safety in the brain of rats, mimicking the effect of training. The finding suggests possibilities for new treatments for individuals suffering from anxiety disorders.

Rats normally freeze when they hear a tone they have been conditioned to associate with an electric shock. The reaction can be extinguished by repeatedly exposing the rats to the tone with no shock. In this work, administering a protein directly into the brain of rats achieved the same effect as extinction training. The protein, brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, is one of a class of proteins that support the growth and survival of neurons.

Prior work has shown that extinction training does not erase a previously conditioned fear memory, but creates a new memory associating the tone with safety. “The surprising finding here is that the drug substituted for extinction training, suggesting that it induced such a memory,” said Dr. Gregory Quirk at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, who led the investigation with support from the National Institute of Mental Health. The work was reported in the June 4 issue of Science.

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