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Could Electric Brain Stimulation be the Miracle of Psychiatry? Could Electric Brain Stimulation be the Miracle of Psychiatry?

Could Electric Brain Stimulation be the Miracle of Psychiatry?

Jul 2, 2013

Anybody who’s ever known someone with Parkinson’s disease knows what a debilitating and terrible disease it is. One of the prime ways to fight the illness is deep brain stimulation (DBS), a pacemaker for the brain that sends an electrical charge to certain parts of the brain to help with tremors and improve motor skills. It’s not exactly a new piece of technology, in fact scientists have been experimenting with it in some form since the 1960s. As of recently though there have been breakthroughs in its use that could revolutionize brain illnesses.

Current patents are already in place that would work to treat and cure everything from Alzheimer’s disease, to drug addiction, and depression. The issue lies of with sending the correct electrical shock to the affected part of the brain. Easier said than done.

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The idea of controlling the brain’s functions with electricity first came into play over 50 years ago when physiologist José Delgado used a remote control to stop a bull dead in its tracks mid-charge. With this discovery he envisioned creating a happier, less destructive man. Only at the time many of his conclusions feel flat within the psychiatric community.

Since then the study has come a long way, with doctors having success that is as predictable as flipping a light switch. The only problem is that the brain is such a complex organ they’re not exactly sure why it works. Every patient who has the surgery is also awake during the process. It’s a pretty crazy thought to think that you’re going to be awake during brain surgery, but it’s necessary so that surgeons can test electrical pulses on different parts of the brain.

Not only is DBS a rapidly developing procedure within the medical community, but it’s big business, too. The largest brain stimulation device manufacturer, Medtronic made a whopping $1.7 billion last year. Naturally, this has fueled the search to find more ways to use the device.

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Joe Narciso, 44, at one point was taking up to 19 pills a day for Parkinson’s. The pills took their own toll on him, leaving him in a groggy daze. The implant has had much less of an impact on him and he’s now hoping it will help him in other ways. Narcisco was at one time a prominent voice actor, but his once powerful voice is now been stripped to a gravely whisper. Now with the right combination of voltage and frequency distribution from the implant it might actually be able to restore his voice.

The idea of an implant that essentially is mind-control may sound like something out of a bizarre sci-fi movie, but for those living with a debilitating disease it’s a new miracle that cancels out the need for a lifetime of pills.

Via TheVerge