Some of my earliest childhood memories are being taken by my father to his laboratory and clinics in Minnesota, when he was working towards his PhD in the functions of the liver. I learned that science was intrinsically part of medical developments.
I went to University College London to do a degree in physiology, and I was fascinated by the fact that neurosurgical procedures could restore normality in sufferers of in Parkinson’s disease. I decided to go into medicine at King’s College London, and to make such procedures my career as a neurosurgeon, and combining neurosurgery with neurophysiology.
By the time I entered neurosurgery, such procedures were rarely if ever done. Primate studies at the time suggested that lesioning the subthalamic nucleus might alleviate Parkinson’s disease. I therefore went to Manchester, to pursue a doctorate in medicine studying such lesions in the Parkinsonian primate. These lesions caused total reversal of the symptoms.
Such observations, and observations from other groups, led to deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus for Parkinson’s disease within two years. To date 40,000 patients worldwide have had such procedures done.
Today, I continue to combine neurosurgery with physiology in humans and primates. We have shown that deep brain stimulation of a new target, the pedunculopontine nucleus, can reverse gait and postural disorders in primates. Today, this is done clinically.