December 1, 2014 - French neurosurgeon Alim Louis Benabid and American neurologist Mahlon DeLong were recently named winners of the 2014 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for their roles in developing deep brain stimulation (DBS) for the treatment of Parkinson disease. The December issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, includes a special tribute to Dr. Benabid, the first neurosurgeon to receive this prestigious award. Neurosurgery is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.
Drs. Benabid and DeLong are honored for groundbreaking research in developing DBS--a nondestructive form of neuromodulation therapy that has improved motor function and quality of life for thousands of patients with Parkinson disease. "The discovery and adoption of DBS has ushered in a new era of restorative neurosurgery," according to a cover essay by Dr. Ashwin Viswanathan of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and colleagues.
Recognition for Critical Research Leading to DBS for Parkinson Disease
Dr. DeLong performed early research identifying the brain areas involved in motor dysfunction in Parkinson disease. In a pivotal 1990 study in monkeys with an experimental form of Parkinsonism, he showed that placing a lesion in an area called the subthalamic nucleus produced striking, nearly immediate improvement in motor function.
At around the same time, Dr. Benabid discovered that applying high-frequency stimulation of the thalamus could suppress tremors. The effect was completely reversible, achieved without destroying any brain tissue. "This critical discovery changed the course of functional neurosurgery," Dr. Viswanathan and coauthors write.
Over the next few years, building on Dr. DeLong's findings, Dr. Benabid worked on applying high-frequency stimulation to the subthalamic nucleus. His technique included the use of an implantable, programmable neurostimulator, allowing stimulation to be adjusted for maximal benefit.
In 1995, Dr. Benabid reported a successful initial experience with DBS of the subthalamic nucleus in three patients with severe Parkinson's disease. Later clinical trials showed the lasting effectiveness of this technique, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2002.
Deep brain stimulation techniques are now being applied to other disorders as well, including dystonia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and treatment-resistant seizures. "To date, more than 110,000 patients with Parkinson disease and other disorders of cerebral neurocircuitry have benefitted from Dr. Benabid's pioneering work in the development of therapeutic DBS," according to Dr. Viswanathan and colleagues.
While neurosurgery has a long history of important research contributions, Dr. Benabid is the first neurosurgeon to receive the prestigious Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Dr. Viswanathan and coauthors point out that many Lasker laureates have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize. They conclude, "The public recognition of Professor Benabid's innovative research and his important contributions to the advancement of patient care serves as an inspiring reminder of the role that a neurosurgeon-scientist can play in the advancement of our understanding of the human brain in health and disease."
Neurosurgery, the Official Journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, is your most complete window to the contemporary field of neurosurgery. Members of the Congress and non-member subscribers receive 3,000 pages per year packed with the very latest science, technology, and medicine, not to mention full-text online access to the world's most complete, up-to-the-minute neurosurgery resource. For professionals aware of the rapid pace of developments in the field, Neurosurgery is nothing short of indispensable.
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