Researchers at the University of Kent have learned that gentle, controlled stimulation of the ear canal seems to provide consistent relief of symptoms for Parkinson’s disease patients. Specifically, the randomized, controlled study shows that it might only take twice-daily stimulation for as little as two months seems to provide significant reduction in certain features of the disease.
For the study, stimulation therapy of the ear canal was performed at home through the use of a portable headset. The mechanism was made, specifically for clinical investigation, but a US-based device company called Scion Neurostim. In addition to this, though, patients were also instructed to continue taking their regular dopamine replacement therapy in tandem with the “easy to use” stimulation device.
At the conclusion of the study, the participants themselves reported greater movement and mobility and also showed improvements with decision-making and memory as well as mood and sleep. The participants also said, after the study was over, it was easier to perform everyday activities without any assistance. Specifically, a majority of these therapeutic gains seem to have come around five weeks after the conclusion of treatment.
Study leader David Wilkinson is a Professor with Kent’s School of Psychology. He explains that the results introduce interesting questions about different aspects of Parkinson’s disease, and that some cases might be better managed through traditional drug therapies combined with gentle and non-invasive stimulation of the balance organs.
Professor Ray Chaudhuri is the Director of the King’s College Hospital National Parkinson Foundation Centre. He expresses great enthusiasm about the encouraging results. It is important, of course, for therapies to achieve, as he says, “widespread efficacy and durable gains in motor and specifically non-motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease.” He goes on to explain that these symptoms are typically the ones that most often go untreated or are poorly treated, which is crucial because these particular symptoms have a “detrimental impact on quality of life.”