UF study shows DBS may improve gait and balance in some essential tremor patients

By Todd Taylor

Evangelos Christou headshot
Dr. Evangelos Christou

For some patients with essential tremor, deep brain stimulation has been shown to improve tremor in the upper limbs, but its impact on other effects, such as gait and balance issues, is unclear.

A new 34-participant study by University of Florida neuroscientists finds that DBS was effective in improving gait and balance by reducing axial tremor, or tremor of the trunk that occurs during standing and walking. The study was published in the journal Tremor and Other Hyperkinetic Movements.

The team followed 17 patients treated with DBS in the ventralis intermedius nucleus of the thalamus region of the brain who performed gait and balance tasks with their DBS system turned on and off, as well as 17 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Gait and balance performance was quantified with stride length variability and sway path length, respectively, while tremor was quantified with accelerometry, which measures movement, of various body parts during the gait and balance tasks.

“Our findings suggest that suppression of axial tremor can become a target for thalamic DBS surgery,” said senior author Evangelos Christou, Ph.D., a professor in UF’s department of applied physiology & kinesiology. “Future studies should identify unique DBS lead locations in the thalamus that suppress axial tremor to improvise thalamic DBS into an effective treatment for essential tremor patients with gait and balance problems.”

Read the paper in Tremor and Other Hyperkinetic Movements.