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Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is the surgical procedure of implanting  a neurostimulator AKA  ‘brain pacemaker’ deep in someones head. The device gets it’s nickname  because it releases electrical impulses, like pacemakers used in the heart.

DBS is most commonly used in Parkinson’s disease.  But it can also be used number of other psychological and neurological conditions including: Chronic pain, major depression , obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)


The procedure involves implanting very fine wires with electrodes at their tips into the brain.

Wire extensions go under the skin behind the ear and down the neck. They are connected to a pulse generator, which is placed under the skin below the collar bone or the chest area.

Andrew Johnson’s DBS

Andrew Johnson lives with his wife and two children in New Zealand. He was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s in 2009. At the time he was only 35 years old. In November 2012 and February 2013 he underwent the surgical procedure. Here he talks about his experience:


How is it fitted?

A hole is drilled in the skull known commonly as a burr hole. It is usually around 14mm wide. Then through the burr hole the lead, with an electrode at its tip, is inserted.

The procedure can be performed under either local or general anaesthetic. This is because sometimes doctors need to ask the patient questions during the operation to determine optimal placement of the permanent electrode.

If the procedure is done under general anesthetic live MRI guidance is used for direct visualization of brain tissue and device.


Featured image accredited to Hellerhoff