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Dr. Ali Rezai advances Deep Brain Stimulation at Ohio State

March 06, 2013

Ohio State's Dr. Ali Rezai is a leader in advancing deep brain stimulation. The result: a way to treat debilitating neurological conditions and give patients back their independence.

Rob Reeser was a typical family man. He coached his daughter's basketball team, golfed with his son, and enjoyed spending time at home with his family.

But all that changed when Reeser was diagnosed with severe Parkinson’s disease.

"I tried every medication possible," says Reeser, who was 30 when he was diagnosed. None of the drugs controlled his shaking; soon, he could no longer play sports, feed himself, or continue his work as a municipal clerk.

Then he came to Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and met Dr. Ali Rezai, who is on the forefront of an innovative technology called deep brain stimulation, or DBS. Using a small implant in the brain, DBS functions like a pacemaker: tiny electrodes regulate electrical signals.

As soon as Rezai and his team turned on the DBS device, Reeser’s tremors stopped.

"I feel like I’ve got my life back,” he says.

At Ohio State's Center for Neuromodulation, Rezai is gaining national recognition for pioneering the future of DBS. (U.S. News & World Report called Ohio State "high-performing" in neurology and neurosurgery in its 2012 "Best Hospitals" issue.)

Working with experts in a dozen different colleges and departments on Ohio State’s campus, Rezai and his team are among the first in the world to develop trials looking at how DBS can effectively treat conditions like obesity, post traumatic disorders, autism, and stroke.

Just this fall, Rezai worked side-by-side with Ohio State neurologist, Dr. Douglas Scharre, to implant the first brain pacemaker in a woman with Alzheimer’s--part of a new study to see whether DBS can help improve cognitive and behavioral functions in these patients. (Read more.)

Next up? Tackling seizures, migraines, major depression, and addiction. Rezai has talked to colleagues at the College of Veterinary Medicine about whether the procedure could help animals, too.

The team atmosphere is what drew Rezai--a sought-after expert in his field, with dozens of patents approved or pending--to Ohio State in the first place.

"There's such a tremendous opportunity here to work with experts in many different areas," he says. "I’m gratified to help patients improve their quality of life and to play a role in training the medical staff who will continue to discover and innovate."

"We want to push the frontiers of medicine."