Public Health Statement

Research to Improve Lives

The UMN Udall Center is aimed at improving the lives of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) through development of novel deep brain stimulation therapies. To do so, we must have a better understanding of the changes in brain circuitry that occur in PD. This understanding is critical if we are to advance deep brain stimulation and other therapies for the treatment of PD.

DBS Targets Movement Problems

Conventional DBS approaches target two deep brain structures, the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and the internal segment of the globus pallidus (GPi). These structures are intimately involved in the development of movement problems in PD. When activity in these structures is modulated with DBS, people with PD experience significant relief in motor signs, a reduction in medication and alleviation of associated side effects and significant improvement in their quality of life.

Novel DBS Strategies to Individualize the Patient Experience

Improvement in the slowness (bradykinesia), stiffness (rigidity) and shaking (tremor), however, is not consistent across patients, and some symptoms (e.g., gait, postural instability and freezing) are often resistant to DBS therapy as it is currently practiced today. The UMN Udall will develop novel DBS strategies based on our understanding of biomarkers of brain activity gathered in both people with PD and a well-established PD model where unconventional DBS stimulation settings can be explored. These strategies will not only improve current DBS approaches through development of new stimulation paradigms, but also develop target locations and stimulation strategies to improve motor signs resistant to current DBS approaches.

Training the Next Generation

The UMN Udall Center will also provide cutting-edge cross training opportunities and career enhancement resources to Center Investigators and trainees, the next generation of PD researchers.

Patient Involvement

Finally, the UMN Udall Center is committed to outreach to the local patient community. This includes commitment to active participation in local and regional patient advocacy groups, including involving these groups in the planning and conduct of the Admininstrative Core’s outreach activities. Center Investigators and staff will travel to local communities to give lectures on the latest treatments for Parkinson's disease, emphasizing opportunities to participate in Parkinson's research at the University through the Udall Center. Center activities for patient involvement also include an annual patient symposium, participation in Brain Awareness week,  and demonstrations at the State Fair and Bakken Museum.