Alim Louis Benabid

The Brain, Degenerative Diseases, and the Discovery of Deep Brain Stimulation The History of a Discovery Publication date : June 9, 2021

Alim Louis Benabid is a neurosurgeon and professor of biophysics, a member of the French Academy of Sciences. He is one of the founders of the Clinatec center in Grenoble. He has received prestigious international awards for his work on deep brain stimulation.

Alim Louis Benabid tells the story of a discovery that has been hailed throughout the world as a major scientific and medical advance: deep brain stimulation, the principle of which is to modulate, through electrical stimulation, the functioning of cerebral circuits. He tells how, when the treatment of Parkinson’s disease through medication was ineffective, neurosurgery used electrodes to destroy very precise zones in the brain. And using these techniques no longer to destroy, but to stimulate certain deep neuronal zones, Dr. Benabid discovered a non-destructive and reversible method for treating patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

This discovery, the result of close collaborations between different medical and scientific specialists, is told in detail, accompanied by a general analysis of the scientific and medical discovery, and by an explanation of its consequences and its therapeutic applications, as well as the hope it provides for the future. In fact, high-frequency deep brain stimulation has quickly been established, in France and elsewhere, as the method of choice when surgery is indicated to treat Parkinson’s trembling, and beyond just Parkinson’s disease, for many other medical interventions – notably in psychosurgery, for OCD, for example.

This therapeutic discovery also contributes to the advancement of knowledge. An effective treatment had in fact been found; it remains to be understood how it actually works. Because although one could state that “it works,” we still don’t know why the stimulation of neurons inhibits pathological symptoms.

Finally, the author tackles anthropological questions that arise from cerebral stimulation, which can have uses other than therapeutic, and attempts to debunk the false ideas it can generate.