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Functional neurosurgeon and scientist, Dr. Vibhor Krishna, was awarded an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund his focused ultrasound ablation research for essential tremor patients.

Functional neurosurgery research for essential tremor
Dr. Krishna’s research will benefit the lives of patients with essential tremor, allowing many to return to normal activities that were inhibited by tremor.

Over 10 million Americans live with essential tremor, a common neurological disorder and a leading cause of functional and psychological disabilities. While some patients gain tremor control using medications, up to 20% of essential tremor patients cannot achieve satisfactory tremor control by relying on medication alone.

Focused ultrasound ablation of the ventral intermediate nucleus (Vim) is an FDA-approved procedure for essential tremor patients resistant to medications. Guided by real-time MR imaging, this procedure is incisionless, and allows neurosurgeons to precisely target and ablate the brain area causing the tremor. “We are honored to receive research funding from the National Institutes of Health and are excited about the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of individuals suffering from essential tremor,” said Dr. Krishna. “I am grateful to my mentors, collaborators, and the clinical and research staff.”

focused ultrasound transducer
An artist’s representation of the focused ultrasound transducer which incorporates roughly 1000 ultrasound emitting elements. The ultrasound beam from each element is focused on the Vim (shown in red).

The success of this treatment depends on the ability to accurately ablate the Vim without damaging the surrounding structures. Dr. Krishna’s grant-funded research will optimize this emerging treatment by identifying Vim and its boundaries, standardizing the ultrasound delivery, and monitoring the ultrasound treatment with novel imaging techniques. “The Department of Neurosurgery at UNC Health is absolutely delighted to announce the National Institutes of Health investigator grant to Neurosurgeon-Neuroscientist, Dr. Vibhor Krishna, to investigate focused ultrasound in essential tremor,” said Dr. Nelson Oyesiku, Chair of UNC Health’s Department of Neurosurgery. “This cutting-edge research brings new hope to restoring motor function to patients with a debilitating movement disorder.”

Dr. Krishna’s focused ultrasound ablation research is also supported by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, an organization that aims to accelerate the development and adoption of focused ultrasound. “The Focused Ultrasound Foundation has supported the testing, funding, and clinical rollout of focused ultrasound treatment for essential tremor and many other indications,” said Dr. Neal F. Kassell, founder and chairman of the foundation. “Patients have been excited to pursue this Neurosurgery Research - Functional Neurosurgery at UNC Healthemerging treatment – which is now covered by Medicare in all 50 U.S. states – to alleviate their tremors and improve quality of life. Dr. Krishna’s research aims to make this treatment safer and even more effective, and his research findings will be highly relevant and anticipated by the focused ultrasound community.”

Dr. Vibhor Krishna joined UNC Neurosurgery’s faculty last year as an associate professor. His research and clinical focus is the treatment of movement disorders, including essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. “Through this opportunity, we aim to develop a deeper understanding of brain function relevant to tremor treatment and its modulation with focused ultrasound ablation,” said Krishna.