The First Targeted Treatment for Essential Tremor

Achievement date: 

Researchers at the Center for Neurotechnology (CNT), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Washington (UW), and their industry affiliates at medical device maker Medtronic have delivered the industry’s first closed-loop treatment for essential tremor. Electrodes on top of the brain detect movement in parts of the body that experience essential tremor and deliver deep brain stimulation (DBS) only when needed.


Closed-loop DBS provides stimulation in response to pathologic brain activity, resulting in increased battery life and reduced side-effects when compared to conventional DBS. The novel treatment developed in this endeavor operates autonomously without human interaction and tailors itself to the patient by analyzing neurological signals. The delivery of this solution for essential tremor represents an important step to developing treatments for other disorders like Tourette syndrome and Parkinson’s disease.


There are several ways in which closed-loop DBS treatments are superior to their conventional counterparts, both for the end-user and their healthcare providers. Conventional DBS treatments provide continuous stimulation. By only responding to specific biomarkers in the brain, closed-loop treatments only provide stimulation when needed. This reduces the likelihood of developing a tolerance for the stimulation and improves the life of the battery, which must be replaced surgically.

The amount of programming is also drastically reduced by the treatment’s closed-loop nature. Conventional DBS treatments must be programmed and reprogrammed manually to suit the user’s needs. Closed-loop DBS regulates itself without the need for human intervention, and has the ability to adapt to different patients and changing symptoms.