Stimulating News for COPD Patients

Deep brain stimulation could be effective COPD treatment

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(RxWiki News) Inhalers are a common treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In the future, you may add brain stimulation to the list of COPD treatments.

In a new study, preliminary results have shown a positive affect of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) on lung function. Certain parts of the brain play a role in automatic behaviors of the body, such as breathing or your heart beating.

This research could play a role as a new treatment or lead to a better understanding of the brain's role in respiratory diseases such as COPD.

"Ask your doctor about current COPD treatments."

The DBS study was led by Dr. Jonathan A. Hyam from the University of Oxford. DBS involves a small electrical shock to a surgically implanted electrode in certain areas of the brain. This stimulation helps regulate normal brain function and reducing pain or movement disorders.

By stimulating certain parts of the brain, researchers discovered improved lung function in patients.

DBS has been used to help reduce chronic pain and in disorders, such as Parkinson's Disease, that affect motor function. Researchers believed that the brain could play a role in lung function based on new imaging techniques that helped clarify what parts of the brain played a role in the breathing process.

By stimulating two sections of the brain, the periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) and the subthalamic nucleus (STN), researchers noticed an improvement in peak expiratory flow rate by 14 percent, which measures lung function by testing how fast someone can exhale.

Previously researchers have stimulated the PAG for patients with chronic pain and STN for patients with impaired motor function.

When other parts of the brain were stimulated, there was no improvement in lung function. Researchers believe the stimulation affected the width of the airways, allowing for more air to travel through the lungs thus improving lung function.

While preliminary, one patient who had chronic pain but was later diagnosed with mild COPD, had significant improvements in forced expiratory volume (FEV1), which measures the volume of air exhaled. The patient was having his PAG stimulated to improve chronic pain.

Future studies can help better understand the brain's role in lung function. As a preliminary result, it is encouraging as a possible future treatment but more importantly understanding how the brain controls certain bodily functions.

No funding information was provided. No author conflicts were reported. 

This study was published in the February edition of Neurosurgery.

Last Updated:
February 24, 2012