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U of M brain implant calms tremors

For 37 years, Hanson dealt with tremor, a neurological disorder causing him to lose control of his arms and hands. Then, a device in his brain changed everything.

MINNEAPOLIS - Keith Hanson is big and strong, but this sounded scary.

"No way. No way is anyone drilling a hole in my head, putting an electrode down," said Hanson.

For 37 years, Hanson dealt with tremor, a neurological disorder causing him to lose control of his arms and hands. It got so bad he couldn't eat, drink, or even write his name.

"You know, you start feeling depressed. And so you just end up sitting around the house going, you know, this is it," said Hanson.

Finally, Keith came to see Dr. Jerrold Vitek, the Chair of Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

"Keith had one of the worst cases of essential tremor that I have seen," said Dr. Vitek, who had studied and helped develop this Abbott Infinity Deep Brain Stimulation system.

"With all that work, the anatomy and physiology and the research that's been done, we have been able to identify a part of the brain that causes the tremor for people like Keith," said Dr. Vitek.

Doctors at the U implanted two of these leads into Keith's brain, one for each side. The leads deliver current to block abnormal motor impulses. They're connected to a battery in the chest, which is controlled wirelessly with Bluetooth. So, Keith can turn it on and off.

These leads deliver current to block abnormal motor impulses in the brain. They're connected to a battery in the chest, which is controlled wirelessly with Bluetooth. (Photo courtesy: Abbott)

"Here they come, here's the show," said Hanson, with his hands and arms waving. "See, there's nothing you can do to stop them."

Dr. Vitek helps him turn the device back on and just like that, the tremors are gone.

Hanson says there's no pain or side effects. He has his life back.

"You know, you fight it for this long and you can't win. You can't win," said Hanson. "They've changed my life."

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