The basal ganglia are several structures in the brain that were found to have a central role in a number of neurological conditions, especially in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Prof. Hagai Bergman was the first to show that the subthalamic nucleus, a structure in the basal ganglia, would be an optimal target for amelioration of the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Prof. Bergman’s discoveries in animal models of Parkinson’s disease were crucial in the development of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalmic nucleus that is now used for treating Parkinson’s disease patients. Deep brain stimulation is a medical procedure in which a device called a brain pacemaker sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain. Deep brain stimulation has become the mainstay of therapy in Parkinson’s patients with advanced disease and those with symptoms such as uncontrolled tremors and dystonia (involuntary spasms and contraction of muscles). This treatment has dramatically improved the function and quality of life of many thousands of patients worldwide.
Prof. Bergman is continuing his research in normal and diseased basal ganglia and leads a deep brain stimulation therapy research and development program for Parkinson and other basal ganglia/dopamine related disorders. He is a leading member of the Hadassah hospital deep brain stimulation neurosurgical program and has performed over 300 human electro-physiological mapping operations.
For the important scientific breakthroughs which have led to deep brain stimulation, the only available technique that ameliorates the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and allows many thousands of people to live a more normal and productive life, the Rappaport Prize Committee unanimously agreed that Prof. Hagai Bergman is worthy of the Rappaport Prize for Excellence in Biomedical Research in the category of “Established Investigators”.