The vibratory chair for Parkinson’s disease

There’s a curious historical snippet in the latest edition of Neurology about how the famous French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot designed a shaking chair for patients with Parkinson’s disease after they reported sleeping better after a train or carriage ride.

The most obvious symptom of Parkinson’s disease is tremor and name first given to the condition, by James Parkinson in his famous essay, was the ‘shaking palsy’.

While Charcot’s 19th century contemporaries had tried ‘vibration therapy’ here and there, he was the first to systematically apply it to patients with Parkinson’s and found it helped with stiffness, discomfort and poor sleep.

Later Gilles de la Tourette, a one-time student of Charcot, developed the treatment into a type of electrical vibrating hat to specifically apply a 600 rpm treatment ‘directly’ to the brain.

The treatment was seemingly forgotten for many years but recently it has been revived and studies have found modest benefits for vibration therapy in Parkinson’s disease.

Link to paper.
Link to PubMed entry for same.


  1. Posted August 19, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting post re: vibration therapy and Parkinson’s. I recently made available a research report that suggests a link between various “brain rhythm”-based treatments (SMT, MIT, RAS) and a variety of clinical disorders, one of which was Parkinson’s that responded positively to treatments based on rhythm perception and production. Maybe there is a common underlying rhythm effect. It can be found at following link.
    Kevin McGrew, PhD
    Educational Psychologist
    Director, IAP (

  2. Patrick
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi Everyone,
    Read this review Ken wrote about a new novel, thought it might be interesting for everyone, here is the link
    I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t comment, but it looks interesting.

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