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Stimulating Support

Sydney family gift seeks new insights into time-honored Parkinson’s treatment


Jeffrey Arle, M.D., Ph.D., Roberta SydneyDeep brain stimulation (DBS) provided a new lease on life for Stanley Sydney. When BIDMC neurosurgeon Jeffrey Arle, M.D., Ph.D., met Sydney 13 years ago, he was suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease. The therapy, which was relatively new at the time, kept the side effects of the degenerative disease in check and allowed Sydney to watch his grandchildren grow and even to play with his first great granddaughter.“We are eternally grateful that the last 12 years of my father’s life were better than they otherwise would have been,” says Stanley’s daughter and BIDMC Overseer Roberta Sydney. “The Parkinson’s eventually advanced, but he would not have had those years, nor would he have enjoyed those years if it had not been for Jeff and his care.”

When the Sydney family decided to make a gift that would have an impact, the choice was clear. They recently contributed $225,000 to Arle’s research to further investigate and improve the therapy that enriched Stanley’s quality of life. “Our gift is about making sure that other families do not experience the suffering of Parkinson’s disease,” says Roberta, who co-chaired a Board of Overseers event in April that highlighted innovative advances in neuroscience to prevent disease and improve health. “We know so much about other parts of our body. The brain is the last thing we really need to explore. We don’t even know why the DBS works; we just know that it does.”

DBS requires a surgical procedure to implant a thin wire equipped with stimulating electrodes into a specific target deep within the brain. The electrodes are connected to a pacemaker implanted under the skin that, like a pacemaker for the heart, delivers electrical impulses directly to the target to regulate its abnormal activity. Arle is focused on developing and analyzing computational models related to therapies that use neuromodulation, such as DBS. “We study many aspects of these therapies such as how scar tissue affects stimulation, what types of parameters work best for different therapies, new types of stimulation, and new devices,” Arle explains. “A computational approach gives us flexibility to explore or study aspects of the system that cannot be examined in animal or human models easily or at all.”

Contact Information

Office of Development
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue (BR)
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 667-7330
(617) 667-7340 (fax)