Deep brain stimulation or DBS is a surgical treatment in which a small electrode is implanted inside the human brain and now some studies reveal that it has close associations with the respiratory function. The deep brain stimulation (DBS) which is used to treat the individuals suffering from chronic pain or movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease bears an effect on the human lung function. In an attempt to disrupt the abnormal activity of the brain, the electrode which is implanted inside it, sends electrical impulses to stimulate some particular parts of the brain.
To find out how DBS can affect the lung function, the patients receiving DBS for movement disorders or chronic pain were studied and then with the help of advanced functional imaging techniques, various complex functions of the autonomic nervous systems (ANS) which is a part of the peripheral nervous system that controls involuntary functions like heartbeat and breathing and which is controlled by the brain were studied. These findings can be helpful in developing new treatments for diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Changes are seen in the respiratory function when the two regions of the brain: the sub thalamic nucleus (STN) and the peri aqueduct gray matter (PAG) are under the effect of electrical stimulation. Peri aqueduct gray matter is stimulated in patients with chronic pain where as in patients with movement disorders, sub thalamic nucleus is found. In individuals with asthma, the peak expiratory flow rate- a vital measure of the respiratory function rose up to 14% under the effect of stimulation while in other regions of the brain no effect was seen on the lung function. Besides this, some other important measures of the respiratory functions including the forced expiratory volume (FEV1), failed to show any change under the affect of the electrical stimulation.
Whether DBS can cause larger improvements in the respiratory function for patients suffering from the chronic lung disease requires more research and study although some of the benefits of DBS can surely be studied under the augmentation in the peak expiratory flow rate. The automatic nervous system (ANS) also provides ample information regarding the involvement of the brain in the control of functions of the lung. Now efforts are being made by the researchers to evolve methods which can be effectively used to treat respiratory diseases particularly those which involve narrowing of airways, for instance, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).