Key Takeaways

  • Mass General is the first hospital in New England to offer new deep brain stimulation implant to treat neurological disease
  • New device allows for constant monitoring of a patient's brain activity and non-invasive adjustment to therapy
  • New treatment may open the door to a greater understanding of neurological disease

This is information we’ve never had access to before. I predict in the coming years we will learn to use this information to improve therapy in ways that we did not anticipate.

Todd Herrington, MD
Director, Deep Brain Stimulation Program, Massachusetts General Hospital 

BOSTON  –– In a shift to personalize treatment for neurological disease, a team of neurologists and neurosurgeons from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) completed the first deep brain stimulation (DBS) implant in New England that will be able to use the patient’s own brain activity to guide therapy. DBS treatment is designed to alleviate symptoms and reduce medication side-effects in patients with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor, epilepsy and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This updated DBS device is the first-of-its kind to record signals from the brain that can be used by a neurologist to further optimize a patient’s clinical benefit from brain stimulation. The first regional implant of this new device occurred at MGH on July 7, 2020.

DBS is a surgical treatment in which an implantable pulse generator (IPG) is embedded under the skin in the chest, delivering electrical stimulation to the brain. The stimulation is applied through a wire (known as a lead or electrode), inserted into the brain and connected to the device in the chest. Neurologists then non-invasively adjust the stimulation to optimize treatment.

“Previously we’ve been able to record from the brain in DBS patients only during the initial brain surgery,” says Mark Richardson, MD, director of Functional Neurosurgery at MGH. “Now we’ll be able to follow changes in brain activity over time and to evaluate the brain’s response to stimulation directly. It’s a new era for DBS.”

The new Percept™ PC Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) system with BrainSense™ technology was developed by medical device company Medtronic and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

While similar to previous generations of DBS devices, the new recording capability of the Percept system allows specialists to learn more about the neural signatures – brain activity patterns that are present when a symptom is present, and absent when that symptom is absent – in the brain with different disease states.

The therapy is administered in two phases. During the surgical phase, the device and connections are implanted and brain recording is turned on. One month after surgery to place the brain leads, the patient’s neurologist will program the level of stimulation through the device. In the interim, the neurologist can monitor and analyze recordings of the patient’s brain activity, which will help direct the level of stimulation. This advance allows specialists to not only record brain activity in each patient, but also track it over time, analyze differences and adjust medication and stimulation accordingly.

“We have some exciting ideas about how brain sensing will be useful to improve DBS for patients today, and we are eager to put those into practice,” says Todd Herrington, MD, director of the MGH DBS program.  “But this device is opening up an entirely new window into each patient’s brain activity. This is information we’ve never had access to before. I predict in the coming years we will learn to use this information to improve therapy in ways that we did not anticipate.”

For more information about the DBS program at MGH, please visit:

About the Massachusetts General Hospital
Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $1 billion and comprises more than 8,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In August 2019 the MGH was once again named #2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in its list of "America’s Best Hospitals."