IETF Funded Research

Essential tremor (ET) has no cure. And since there is no medication specifically designed for ET, people struggle to find effective treatment options. Some feel like any and all medications are thrown at them in an attempt to find something that might work. Anything that might work.

If only we understood the cause of ET, then new, tailored treatments could be developed. Cutting-edge researchers are ready to search for not only new but smarter treatment options in hopes of making even the simplest of life’s tasks easy again.

Each year researchers with an interest in studying the various aspects of essential tremor are encouraged to submit scientific proposals for grant funding from the IETF. To date, your research donations have provided more than $750,000 to fund numerous promising studies.

Your research donation could make the difference between critical research being funded, or being turned away. Every donation, no matter the size, counts. Help us keep research moving forward!

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The Driving Need for Essential Tremor Research
By Ludy Shih, MD
As a clinician-investigator, Dr. Shih sees two things driving the need for essential tremor research: A) the need for more effective and better-tolerated medications for tremor, and B) the ways that the common clinical features of ET should lend us clues to the understanding of tremor.

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2018 Funded Research

Optogenetic Interrogation of Cerebellar Circuitry of a Novel Mouse Model of Essential Tremor.
The major obstacle for the effective therapy development for essential tremor is the unclear brain structural alterations that leads to tremor. To overcome this obstacle, we have previously identified structural alterations in the cerebellum, the brain region important for motor coordination, in essential tremor patients. Now, we will determine how this brain pathology can lead to tremor by establishing a mouse model with similar pathological alterations in the cerebellum. We will use the novel neuroscience tools to specifically silence the neuronal activities within the cerebellum in this mouse model and we will assess how these manipulations can influence tremor. The results of our proposal will establish a new platform to screen therapies for essential tremor and will advance our knowledge of essential tremor.


A Pilot Study for Quantitative Assessment of Gait in Essential Tremor Using Wireless Sensors; Potential Diagnostic Tool and Measure of Progression
Although essential tremor (ET) is the most common tremor disorder, its diagnosis can be challenging, and misdiagnosis of ET is not uncommon. The most common movement disorder confused with essential tremor is tremor predominant Parkinson’s disease (PD). Dopamine transporter (DaT) scan is the only available diagnostic tool utilized in the differentiation of ET from PD. However, due to its expense and limited availability it is important to develop a relatively inexpensive tool that can easily and efficiently be utilized in clinical settings to aid in the accurate diagnosis of ET. With growing evidence of gait abnormalities in ET, studying quantitative gait measures may potentially aid in differentiating ET and PD. In this pilot study, we aim to quantitatively analyze gait and balance in the clinical setting using wireless sensors to determine if the gait abnormalities are present in early ET, and whether comparing various aspects of gait and balance can help to differentiate between ET and PD.


2017 Funded Research

Double-blind, Placebo-control, Cross-over Trial of Cannabidiol for Essential Tremor
The focus of this study is to collect the necessary data needed to determine whether further research is warranted to develop cannabidiol (CBD) as a viable tremor suppressant for essential tremor. Results obtained will provide the critical knowledge needed to request National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for a drug development program to pursue the shorter-term development of CBD for essential tremor and the longer-term development of similar yet more targeted novel agents.


Genome Wide Copy Number Variations and ET
Like many other common human diseases and traits, ET is known to cluster in families and it is believed to be influenced by several genetic and environmental factors. Overall genetic variants that are associated with, or are the cause of, ET have been sought for over a decade but the involvement of an emerging class of genetic variant that is collectively referred to as “Copy Number Variants” (CNVs) has not yet been properly examined in familial ET.


Elucidating the Roles of the Ca2+-activated Ion Channels in Essential Tremor
Essential tremor is a complex and progressive neurological disorder that affects more than1% in the general population and 5% in the population over 65 years. After many years’ efforts, we are only beginning to develop some limited understandings on the pathogenesis. Based on extensive animal and human patient studies, we now know that abnormal oscillatory activity of an interconnected brain network, called the cortico-olivo-cerebello-thalamic circuit, is a common feature of ET.


2016 Funded Research

Application of Smartphones/Smartwatches in Diagnosis and Treatment Monitoring of Essential Tremor
The analysis and quantification of tremor is achieved by using a tremor measuring device called an accelerometer. However, accelerometry is not widely available and only a few centers have them available. Modern smartphones and smartwatches usually contain 3 sensors which might be suitable to analyze tremor: (1) a three axes accelerometer, (2) a three axis gyroscope, (3) a three-axes magnetometer, each measuring in three axes. The data from these sensors can be used to aid the correct diagnosis of tremor disorders and to monitor tremor treatment.


Norepinephrine’s Effects on the Cerebellum and Role in Tremor
Propranolol is a beta-blocker and is the most widely used medication for the treatment of essential tremor. Dr. Krook-Magnuson believes propranolol’s actions are centrally located, working on a region of the brain known as the cerebellum, and slowing the amount of norepinephrine released.  Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter. Think of it as a city bus that moves information from the brain to various locations/stops in the body.


2015 Funded Research

Testing the GABA Nucleo-Olivary Hypothesis of Essential Tremor
Researchers have long sought to understand the underlying causes of essential tremor. Finding the cause could then allow medications to be developed that are specific to ET, meaning better treatment options for millions of affected people around the world. Over the last several years there have been some very interesting steps forward in our understanding of ET.


Essential Tremor Research Program: Cannabidiol Anti-Tremor Action and Mechanisms
It’s been nearly 20 years since the passing of California’s Proposition 215, allowing for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Although still classified as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substance Act at the Federal level, 22 additional states, the District of Columbia and Guam have all passed similar legislation allowing for the use of marijuana for therapeutic, medical purposes.

Summary    Conclusion Summary

Abnormal Climbing Fiber-Purkinje Cell Synapses in Essential Tremor
Thanks to a grant issued last year from the IETF, Dr. Shen-Han Kuo’s research team at Columbia University in New York discovered a previously unknown abnormality in essential tremor patients at the location in the brain where neuron’s electrical and chemical signals are transmitted and received. Understanding how and why the neurons in essential tremor patients communicate the way they do is the next step in the process of understanding the cause of ET.


2014 Funded Research

The Role of Excitotoxicity in Essential Tremor Cerebellum
The goal of this $25,000 IETF research grant is to investigate the role of excitotoxicity in the postmortem ET cerebellum. Excitotoxicity is the pathological process by which nerve cells are damaged and killed by excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters. It has been a suggested approach for ET, however, there has yet to be any direct evidence that excitotoxicity plays a role in ET patients.

Summary    Conclusion Summary

Cerebello-Thalamo-Cortical Coupling in Essential Tremor: Effects of High-Frequency Cerebellar Stimulation on Brain Activity and Tremor  
Tremor is associated with abnormal activity within different brain regions, particularly the thalamus and cerebellum. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) reverses symptoms of tremor but is an invasive procedure. This $25,000 IETF research grant will assist in the study of transcranial stimulation of the cerebellum that may represent a non-invasive therapeutic option for ET patients. Transcranial stimulation (tACS) is a new technique allowing manipulation of rhythmic patterns in the brain’s cortex with externally applied electrical frequencies.


A Feasibility Study for an Essential Tremor Brain Bank at the Arizona Study of Aging and Neurodegenerative Disorders
Now in its third IETF-funded year, researchers will utilize a $35,000 IETF research grants to continue to examine the brain tissue of those with ET and other neurological disorders after death, searching for a greater understanding of how ET changes the features of the brain, and hopefully leading to more effective diagnostic tools. They will also compare the clinical findings of early-onset ET and ET beginning after age 65.


2013 Funded Research

Clinical Characteristics of Essential Tremor and Enhanced Physiological Tremor in Childhood
Erika Augustine, MD, University of Rochester, Rochester NY was awarded $25,000 for her proposal entitled, “Clinical characteristics of essential tremor and enhanced physiological tremor in childhood”. Dr. Augustine will work with children between the ages of 5 and 18, focusing on the similarities and differences between ET and Enhanced Physiological Tremor (ePT), another common form of tremor in children.


An Innovative Damping Exoskeleton Approach to Essential Tremor Treatment
Carlo Menon, PhD, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, CANADA was fully funded with a $24,992 grant for his proposal entitled, “An innovative damping exoskeleton approach to essential tremor treatment”. This project explores a new assistive device for ET that utilizes state-of-the-art wearable robotics to suppress tremor symptoms.


Essential Tremor Brain Bank at the Arizona Study of Aging and Neurodegenerative Disorders
A grant award in the amount of $35,000, for the second year in support of the project “Essential Tremor Brain Bank at the Arizona Study of Aging and Neurodegenerative Disorders” was awarded to Holly Shill, MD, Director, Christopher Center for Parkinson Research, Cleo Roberts Center for Clinical Research, and to Charles H. Adler, Co-PI and Clinical Core Director of the Arizona Parkinson’s Disease Consortium (APDC)and Professor of Neurology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Scottsdale, AZ. The researchers expect to find that those with ET have no greater risk of developing dementia or have cognitive impairment than the general public. They will also compare the clinical findings of early-onset ET and ET beginning after age 65. The team will continue to examine the brain tissue of those with ET and other neurological disorders after death, searching for a greater understanding of how ET changes the features of the brain and hopefully leading to more effective diagnostic tools.


2012 Funded Research

Feasibility study for an Essential Tremor Brain Bank at the Arizona Study of Aging and Neurodegenerative Disorders
A joint project between Banner Sun Health Research Institute and Mayo Clinic Arizona.
The Arizona Study of Aging and Neurodegenerative Disorders (ASAND) based at Banner Sun Health Research Institute has been given funding to add additional cases of ET into its longitudinal study.



IETF Funded Research Archives (FY)

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2003   2001