Basis Neuro is able to support the recovery therapy of Parkinson’s.

All our life is on the go. We work and study and do sports and household chores, without thinking about how the brain forms each basic motor act, controlling and correcting it, if necessary. In the meantime, the simplest locomotion (movement) is a complex, hierarchically organized structure that includes various levels of control over the central nervous system. The coordination of various brain structures provides reliable and harmonious body control, from the lowest level of unconditioned reflexes protecting from painful sensations, to reflexes of higher order, for example, playing musical instruments or cycling.

However, there are neurodegenerative diseases that can result in a person losing natural control over their movements. They include Parkinson’s disease, whose reason is the lack of a neurotransmitter dopamine, which increases the level of activity of neurons throughout the brain. It is now well known that the disease is caused by the death of neurons in the middle brain region, dubbed black substance (substantia nigra). Researchers have long been trying to explain why the absence of dopaminergic neurons that synthesize dopamine in the black substance leads to motor dysfunctions, such as slow movements and tremors (trembling of limbs). The most recognized explanation is that the brain must constantly maintain a certain level of dopamine for a normal level of motor activity, whereas it is significantly lower than normal in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

A new study published by researchers from the Champalimaud Center (Portugal) and the B. Zuckerman Columbia University Brain Institute in the journal Nature is an important step towards a deeper understanding of the functions of these important neurons. The experiments involved rodents (mice), which were transformed into patients with Parkinsonism for short periods of time. Optogenetic methods were used in the experiments to achieve such this effect, enabling researchers to turn on and off neurons at a very high speed with a laser.

The mice were placed in an area that allowed free behavior. Motion detectors recorded animal activity with high accuracy in real time. This was necessary to evaluate the activity of dopamine neurons before, during, and after their movements.

At the next stage, the researchers activated or inhibited the dopamine cells by a laser. Activation of neurons in a motionless mouse for half a second led to vigorous movement thanks to the neurotransmitter production. Activation of neurons during animal movement did not affect the movements and their intensity. Inhibition of neurons of a motionless animal reduced the statistical probability of occurrence and speed of movements. However, if dopamine was already delivered to cells that control locomotion, suppression of neuronal activity during movement did not affect normal performance either. These results revealed that dopamine is the trigger for the realization of movements or acts as their complete inhibition. Consequently, a decrease in motor coordination in case of Parkinson’s disease is a reversible process, which requires raising the level of the neurotransmitter to normal. At the moment, drug therapy for Parkinson’s disease includes dopamine-based drugs that increase its concentration in the brain and alleviate symptoms.

Deep brain stimulation is an alternative method of treatment if drugs are ineffective. Stimulation means that patients get a high-frequency stimulator implanted, which blocks the abnormal electrical impulses of those brain neurons that are responsible for movement control. Although DBS significantly alleviates symptoms in Parkinsonism, the patients need a neurosurgical operation, which may be associated with a risk of brain injury, infection, and bleeding. Recent studies have shown that non-invasive methods of stimulation by direct current to the brain of animals raise the level of dopamine produced and restore the impaired transmission of nerve impulses — neurotransmission. Patients with Parkinson’s disease who have been treated with the method of transcranial stimulation have shown improvement in their functional mobility, balance, and quality of life. The non-invasive neural stimulator developed by Basis Neuro engineers is able to support the recovery therapy of patients by using direct current in the case of such neurodegenerative disease as Parkinson’s.


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