Researching Parkinson's Disease in France

A Victoria University engineering student has spent her summer helping French researchers develop a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.  

Sports Engineering student Kaitlyn Waldie spent two months at the University of Bordeaux 1 IMS Laboratory, where researchers are investigating electronics in healthcare.

“We were looking into a long-term treatment option for Parkinson’s Disease through deep brain stimulation (DBS), where electrodes are implanted into the patient’s brain and programmed electrical waves from a neuro-stimulator are sent to the electrodes,” she said. “This treatment is proven to work on human patients, however it can cause side effects such as obesity and it is currently not understood how or why this is happening.”

The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease can be characterized by muscle rigidity, resting tremor, slowness of movement and sustained muscle contractions. Currently there is no cure for people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

The French team have developed a cost-effective stimulating system as an alternative to the costly commercial systems.

 “My role within this project was to research ideal batteries and to design prototype housing for the electronic circuit and battery,” Kaitlyn said. “This package will be used for long-term DBS trials in order to better understand how to treat Parkinson’s Disease.” 

Kaitlyn said she enjoyed everything about the experience, from collaborating on an intensive research project, to exploring Bordeuax and walking to uni each day past the picturesque 120 acre vineyard of Château Haut-Brion, which has been producing wine since Roman times.

“The French people I worked with and met during my time there were a lovely group of people,” she said. ”They were very willing to help me by recommending places to eat, sights to see and teaching me a few French phrases to help with everyday life around the university.”

Kaitlyn said the summer research program provided a deep learning experience and a fascinating entry into research for undergraduate students.

Kaitlyn is now concentrating on her final year studies and says she looks forward to continuing onto a master’s or other postgraduate degree after that.

“I have always been very passionate about my sports and I thoroughly enjoy how the engineering I do interfaces with my passion,” she said.

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