Parkinson's Disease Study

Prospective study on the effect of magnetic stimulation in Parkinson's patients


  • Location: Philadelphia Veteran's Affairs Medical Center (PVAMC), Philadelphia, PA and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA


Image by Eric Wassermann, MD, 2009 / NIH

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive means of getting electrical energy across the insulating tissues of the head and into the brain.

A powerful and rapidly changing electrical current is passed through a coil of wire applied near the head. The magnetic field, oriented perpendicular to the plane of the coil passes virtually unimpeded through the scalp and skull.

In the brain, the magnetic field produces currents in the induced electrical field lying parallel to the plane of the coil.

These currents are able to excite neural processes lying in the plane of the induced field in a manner roughly analogous to direct cortical stimulation with electrodes.

This treatment has the potential to dramatically improve quality of life for patients suffering from the disease. As designed, this double blind, randomized trial will test the effectiveness of a picoTesla magnetic treatment versus a sham device on motor function for patients with Parkinson's disease. Research has been conducted at the Veteran's Administration Parkinson Research Center in the Philadelphia Veterans' Administration Hospital Medical Center.

Objective: Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive, degenerative neurological condition potentially leading to significant disability and morbidity. It is characterized by the clinical triad of bradykinesia, rigidity, and resting tremor. Currently, there is no cure or proven neuro-protective therapy for PD. With PD typically diagnosed at middle age due to progressive symptoms, the disease is prominent in the population of patients served by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Current research seeks to provide a drug free, noninvasive and non-toxic therapy for PD through transcranial magnetic stimulation in the form of picoTesla magnetic therapy (pTMT).

Research Design: This double-blind, randomized sham-controlled study (n = 20) will test the efficacy of pTMT to reduce motor and neuropsychiatric symptoms in PD patients at the PVAMC.

Methodology: Evaluations included the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), magneto encephalogram (MEG), a neuropsychological battery (including global assessments of cognitive function, specific assessments of language, attention, executive function, learning and memory, and assessments of neuropsychiatric symptoms including depression, anxiety, apathy and psychosis), a PD specific assessment of quality of life (QOL) and computer automated assessment of gait. These assessments were performed at baseline and at three months with the UPDRS and MEG being performed in the "on-state" (on medications) as well as in a functional "off-state" (no anti-Parkinsonian medications for the previous 12 hours). Participants were examined at one month with an "on-state" UPDRS and MEG.

Outcome: This research project was started under the FAIM umbrella and has been transferred to another institution for completion. See External Magnetic Stimulation for Parkinson's Disease presented by John Duda, MD on FAIM's report of the Samueli Institute's Brain, Mind and Healing Symposium.