What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by impairment in the function of the nervous system. The disease is predominantly observed in populations with ages greater than 60 years old. Main symptoms include tremors in limbs, head and jaw, muscle stiffness, slow movement, and impaired coordination. These motor difficulties mostly result from the loss/impairment of neurons in the basal ganglia, which produce dopamine, an important hormone and neurotransmitter that controls movement. Other symptoms may include behavioural changes, fatigue, and depression.
According to Parkinson’s Disease Canada, over 100,000 Canadians are currently living with the disease, with an estimated 6,600 new diagnostic cases each year. As estimated by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the number of Canadians living with parkinsonism will double between 2011 and 2031, accompanied by a 50% increase in disease incidence. Most treatments are based on medication or advanced therapies such as deep brain stimulation (DBS). These options have shown to induce side effects including nausea, confusion, memory problems for commonly used drugs and infection and hardware complications with DBS. Hence, treatment strategies with less severe side effects are important areas of study to cope with the high incidence of the disease.
Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation
An emerging treatment for patients diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease is galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS). GVS is a safe and non-invasive brain stimulation technique that affects the firing of the vestibular system by conducting an electrical current to the mastoid process behind the ears through electrodes (2-pole system).
The research involving a 2-pole system has evolved into a 3-pole system that contains either a pair of anodes or a pair of cathodes on the mastoids alongside a cathode or anode. We aim to determine if 3-pole GVS induces a greater degree of improvement in motor performance when compared to 2-pole GVS for PD patients.
Tina Zhang, an undergraduate student testing electrode placement at the McKeown Lab, UBC
Our team is working in collaboration with the Pacific Parkinson's Research Center and the McKeown Lab at UBC under the supervision of Dr.Martin McKeown
Our students have been trained by the Pacific Parkinson's Research Centre to conduct a complete research trial with 20 Parkinson's Patients. We have also gained certification in the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale and are actively involved members of the Movement Disorders Society.
Our students have been actively volunteering their time for this project throughout the past school year. Despite challenges with COVID-19, our students were able to enter the lab and perform extensive testing for our experimental design.
Our students are certified for the industry-leading MDS-Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale
Winners of the Peoples Choice award for best research poster at the Canadian Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Conference (CUBEC)
Selected to present a research poster at the School of Biomedical Engineering Research Day, UBC
Our students are preparing for in-person trials starting this academic term