'I can control my Parkinson's thanks to animal research' 

Mike Robins has directly benefited from animal research. He has Parkinson's disease, and the severity of his tremor meant he couldn't sit in the same room as his family and read a newspaper.

His violent shaking made such a disturbing distraction that they would take themselves somewhere else.

''It's very difficult for a person without a tremor to understand,'' he says. ''You can't do much for yourself if you're shaking uncontrollably, and you certainly can't hold a proper conversation because you're concentrating on trying not to shake.''

When he got the opportunity to have what was still experimental surgery, Mike jumped at the chance. ''I think I was the third person in this country to have the surgery, but my tremor had become so debilitating that I had to do something,'' he says.

Now Mike can control his symptoms at the flick of a switch. He had a surgical implant placed in his brain, which means he can now send a brief electrical pulse (about 130 times a second) to an area in his brain the size of a grapefruit pip. This controls his shaking.

The technique, called deep brain stimulation, has now become an established treatment for some people, like Mike, whose Parkinson's doesn't respond to medication.

The technology was developed after research on monkeys, whose brains have a similar structure to humans. The research helped identify the precise part of the brain associated with the shaking symptoms of Parkinson's.

This type of brain surgery has potential risks, but research on 30 monkeys over 10 years showed it was likely to work and be relatively safe in humans. Deep brain stimulation now helps about 30,000 people worldwide, including Mike.

Mike is delighted to be an example of someone whose life has improved dramatically as a direct result of animal research.

''I am extremely grateful for the animal research that has allowed me to live a normal life again. It has improved the quality of my life beyond measure.''

Read more about Parkinson's disease, including the different ways it is treated.

Page last reviewed: 05/01/2015

Next review due: 05/01/2017