What Is Deep Brain Stimulation?

Deep Brain Stimulation

What Is Deep Brain Stimulation?

For patients who no longer respond to drug treatment for certain neurological disorders, deep brain stimulation (DBS) provides symptom relief through an implantable device that maintains appropriate electrical signaling in the brain. During deep brain stimulation, a wire with four small electrodes is placed in the critical part of your brain that helps control movement. The electrode is attached to a small battery pack—similar to a pacemaker—that’s implanted in the wall of your chest. The wires that connect the electrode to the battery are placed under the skin for convenience and cosmetic reasons.

Northwestern Medicine DBS technology offers hope and increased quality of life to patients with:

The DBS system consists of three components:

  • Electrode (lead): A thin, insulated wire that is inserted through a small opening in the skull and implanted in the brain. The tip of the electrode is positioned in the area of the brain that has been identified as causing the symptoms.
  • Extension: An insulated wire that is passed under the skin of the head, neck and shoulder, connecting the lead to the neurostimulator
  • Battery-operated neurostimulator: Usually implanted under the skin near the collarbone, or occasionally lower in the chest or abdomen

Are you a candidate for deep brain stimulation?

DBS should be considered when symptoms of your disorder are progressing and becoming more difficult to manage. You should also consider DBS if:

  • Medications are not adequately controlling symptoms despite best efforts to optimize treatment.
  • Medications meant to control symptoms result in side effects such as dyskinesias (involuntary extra movements), psychiatric problems or other complications.
  • Motor fluctuations and unreliable responses to medications begin to interfere with quality of life.

People with severe dementia are not candidates since the operation can worsen this condition.

If DBS is determined to be appropriate for you, Northwestern Medicine offers teams1 of experienced neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurophysiologists, neuropsychologists and specialized nurses who combine efforts to achieve an optimal outcome for each patient. Talk to your neurologist and neurosurgeon about the benefits and risks of deep brain stimulation in your treatment plan.

Meet the Teams

The Northwestern Medicine Deep Brain Stimulation specialists at work in integrated teams to provide patients with a multidisciplinary approach to their neurologic care.


Functional Neuromodulation and Neurosurgery Program
The Functional Neuromodulation Neurosurgery Program specialists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital work in integrated teams to provide patients with a multidisciplinary approach to their care, including:

  • Assessment by a fellowship-trained neurologist in movement disorders and epilepsy
  • Comprehensive pharmacological therapy
  • Neurosurgical evaluations for deep brain stimulation (DBS), epilepsy surgery, pain surgery, intrathecal medication infusion and other therapeutic procedures
  • The opportunity to participate in clinical research trials
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy through Northwestern Memorial Hospital in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
  • Social work services: consultation, counseling, support groups, and access to community services and resources
  • Educational programs
  • Learning materials: books, videos, audiotapes, and internet resources
  • Neuropsychology services

The Functional Neurosurgery Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital is one of the leading programs in the Midwest for deep brain stimulation and the first center in the Chicagoland area to use frameless technology to place deep brain stimulating electrodes without the use of the traditional confining and anchored stereotactic frame.

To schedule an appointment with the Functional Neurosurgery Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, please call 312.695.8143. New patients can request an appointment online.

Northwestern Memorial Spine Center
The Northwestern Memorial Spine Center uses the very latest surgical techniques to treat acute and chronic spinal disorders.

By making use of leading-edge techniques and technology, regenerative- and nanotechnology-based bone graft substitutes, computer-navigated surgery, minimally-invasive spine surgery and stereotactic radiosurgery, the Northwestern Memorial Spine Center offers programs for the management of:

  • Spinal deformity
  • Spine oncology
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Failed neck or back surgery syndrome
  • Peripheral nerve compression syndromes
  • Peripheral nerve injuries
  • Rheumatologic disorders of the spine
  • Spinal fractures and other traumatic injuries
  • Work-related injuries
  • Sports-related back and neck injuries

Northwestern Medicine's experts in the field direct the course of treatment and management of routine disorders of the spine. The Northwestern Memorial Spine Center works with the departments of:

  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Neurological Surgery

It also works with the divisions of:

  • Neuroradiology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Musculoskeletal Radiology

This provides a truly interdisciplinary approach to managing diseases of the spine.

The board-certified neurologists at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. They diagnose and treat patients with a full range of neurological disorders, including muscular dystrophy.

Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Movement Disorders and Neurodegenerative Diseases Center
Your movement matters—at home, at work, even while doing the common tasks that everyone can take for granted. If you have a movement disorder, you deserve a level of care that can get you back to doing the things you love, with confidence and peace of mind.

The Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Movement Disorders and Neurodegenerative Diseases Center uses an interdisciplinary team approach to provide individualized care that optimizes your treatment, outcomes and experience. Your care is provided by a focused and experienced team that includes specially trained neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, nurses, counselors and rehabilitative specialists who offer advanced treatment options and access to support and resources.

The Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Program at the Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital campus is among the busiest DBS programs in the country. If DBS is determined to be appropriate for a patient, a dedicated team of experienced neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurophysiologists, neuropsychologists and specialized nurses combine efforts in order to achieve an optimal outcome for each patient.

For more information, please contact us at 630.933.4056.

Related Resources


Deep Brain Stimulation at Central DuPage Hospital: Is it right for you?


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Deep Brain Stimulation for Movement Disorders Information Page

Legal Information

In the spirit of keeping you well-informed, some of the physician(s) and/or individual(s) identified are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. They have selected our facilities as places where they want to treat and care for their private patients.