Did you know?

  • There are over 80,000 Australian’s living with Parkinson’s Disease
  • 32 Australians are diagnosed every day
  • 10% of those diagnosed are UNDER 40 YEARS OLD, 20% are under 50

I took the opportunity to get Neurologist, Dr Wesley Thevathasan, who specialises in Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), to share some insights on his active involvement in emerging research opportunities, which continues to be a key focus of St Vincent’s Neuroscience. Dr Thevathasan currently hold numerous NHMRC project grants to advance the effectiveness of DBS.

L-R: Neurosurgeon, Mr Kristian Bulluss and Neurologist, Dr Wesley Thevathasan


What is DBS and its benefits?

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a “Brain Pacemaker” which can modulate brain activity and function. It can be a very powerful treatment for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, dystonia, epilepsy and obsessive compulsive disorder. DBS has the advantage of being reversible – with the press of a button, DBS can be turned down or switched off.

How does DBS treat/ease Parkinson’s symptoms?

DBS in Parkinson’s disease improves movement such as slowness, stiffness, tremor and dyskinesia (involuntary movement). It achieves the very best state that medication (levodopa) can achieve but constantly, without fluctuation. Additionally, DBS suppresses tremors better than medication. This permits a substantial reduction in medication requirements. DBS does not change disease progression (it is not a ‘cure’) however it can greatly improve function and quality of life.

What research are you currently involved in to advance the effectiveness of DBS treatment?

Mr Kristian Bulluss (Neurosurgeon) and I (Neurologist) are an experienced team who implant and monitor DBS. We work closely with a highly skilled team of researchers at the Bionics Institute of Australia (e.g. Hugh McDermott, Nick Sinclair, Thushara Perera, San San Xu). Together we are developing the next generation of DBS – aiming to deliver computer assisted surgical implantation and automated ‘cruise control’ of DBS once implanted. Our major achievement has been the discovery of a novel biomarker which we believe will allow these aims to be achieved.

What could this research mean for Parkinson’s patients?

In the next year or so we plan to use these research advances to implant DBS in patients whilst asleep and to use advanced computer algorithms to interact with the brain and identify the ideal parameters of stimulation. This will hopefully allow safer and more accurate surgery and greater improvements in movement. A further consequence is that more patients may be suitable for DBS.


Pause 4 Parkinson’s

April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day and throughout the month events are taking place all over the world to raise more awareness and vital funds for research to improve treatments and ultimately to find a cure. If you’d like to get involve and support the Shake It Up Australia Foundation, click here to find out how you can help make a difference.


For more ground-breaking stories from St Vincent’s Hospitals, catch Miracle Hospital; an inspirational documentary series that takes us behind the scenes of St Vincent’s hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne to meet patients and the elite specialist teams who are using the latest science and technology to perform life-saving procedures every day.