Essential Tremor and Thalamus

August 10, 2018

The thalamus, which comes from the greek word for chamber, is two masses of gray matter lying between the cerebral hemispheres on either side of the third ventricle in the brain. It is responsible for relaying sensory information and acting as a center for pain perception. The thalamus relays information as well as receives and processes it. It has a symmetrical structure and is broken into two halves. 
The thalamus also regulates sleep and wakefulness. It plays a huge role in connections with the cerebral cortex, which is believed to be involved with consciousness. The thalamus plays a major role in regulating the level of awareness and activity associated with everyday function and alertness. Another major role of the thalamus is supporting of motor and language systems, and shares responsibility with many other parts of the brain for this task. 

Because the thalamus plays such a large role in the sensory functions of everyday life, and interacts so much with the nervous system and relaying messages between the brain and the nerves, it seems that the thalamus could play a role in essential tremor and it’s symptoms. It is currently believed that abnormal electrical brain activity in the thalamus leads to the tremors associated with essential tremor. There can be other parts of the brain associated with essential tremor, but since the signals go through the thalamus, it is a great place to “intercept” the signals. 

Because of its association with essential tremor, the thalamus is a target of treatment options for patients. Through deep brain stimulation and Neuravive, medical professionals are able to directly target the thalamus, and alter the way it communicates with the nervous system and other parts of the brain. 

A new treatment using Ultrasound energy targets the areas in the thalamus directly that may be causing the essential tremor. With the super-targeted energy, they are able to damage the parts of the thalamus that are misfiring, and therefore get rid of the tremor symptoms that were being caused by the misfiring signals from the thalamus. This treatment has a very high success rate, with almost 90 percent of patients seeing lasting results in their tremor symptoms. 

There are also medications that can help treat essential tremor because of their interaction with the thalamus. The mainstay medications include beta adrenergic blockers and anti-seizure medications. Even injections of botox can positively benefit those with essential tremor. 

Overall, the thalamus plays a huge role in essential tremor. It is the starting point for the misfires of incorrect signals that may cause the tremors in different parts of the body. It seems that this can be caused by genetic factors, or from damage to the thalamus or a gene malformation. Though the cause is unknown, figuring out that the thalamus is involved in how essential tremor starts is a huge step towards learning more about the condition and where it originates from. It also plays a huge role in making steps towards being able to completely cure the condition.