Posted on Jan 27, 2017, 6 a.m.
By inserting a metal rod into the brain, scientists have used deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson's, and this method is being explored for use in Alzheimer's, as well.
Medical researchers have found that it is possible to treat Parkinson's by inserting a metal rod directly into the brain. This rod stimulates the brain and alleviates the symptoms of Parkinson's. Researchers believe this treatment might even help those afflicted with Alzheimer's, epilepsy, bipolar disorder and depression.
About Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep brain stimulation, also referred to with the acronym of "DBS" is intriguing because of its reanimation potential. This surgical technique involves the placement of a metal rod directly into the patient's brain. The end of the rod contains electrodes that are connected to a battery implanted within the chest cavity. Once everything is in the proper position, the device is flicked on and an electrical current is generated to stimulate the neurons in the portion of the brain tied to Parkinson's.
DBS is typically used on patients where traditional medication does not suffice. Once the switch is flicked, the patient transitions from shaking in an uncontrollable manner and hardly being able to move to being quite relaxed and nearly in full control of his body. The man responsible for this groundbreaking treatment, Dr. Andres Lozano, has also found that DBS can even also conjure up once-lost memories in certain patients.
Non-Invasive Techniques to Treat Parkinson's and Other Diseases
If the placement of a metal rod in the brain seems a bit obtrusive or slightly morbid, don't fret. Other less invasive treatment methods are also available. One such treatment, known as transcranial magnetic stimulation or "TMS", is currently under development. If successful, this treatment will eliminate the need for surgery. It involves the use of high-powered magnets attached to the outer portion of the patient's head to transmit an electromagnetic current to the target space. Initial results show this treatment boosts cognition by stimulating neurons within the affected space. However, TMS is still fairly new. It might take several months or even years before TMS becomes a mainstream treatment.
Another technique referred to as “Neural Lace”, is currently being perfected by a company led by none other than Elon Musk of Tesla Motors fame. This technique makes use of neuromodulation to improve cognitive abilities.
A Word About Neuromodulation
The treatments outlined above have trailbazed a path for the new branch of medicine referred to as neuromodulation. This field makes use of TMS, DBS and other treatment methods to boost all sorts of different cognitive abilities. It is possible that patients afflicted with such diseases will eventually be able to walk directly into a clinic, have a brain scan conducted to identify deficiencies and then have those deficiencies ameliorated on-the-spot with neuromodulation techniques.
Neuromodulation also encapsulates the brain's innate ability to move objects. Neural prostheses have been created that empower patients to move robotic limbs with their thoughts. This is quite the incredible feat. Neuromodulation specialists envision patients being able to control numerous objects within their home in a similar way at some point in the near future. This challenge will likely be ameliorated as the internet of things goes mainstream in the coming months and years.
Where Will Neuromodulation Take Us?
Perhaps the next “level” of neuromodulation will be a direct link between the brain and the world wide web itself. This is the foundation of Musk's forementioned Neural Lace. Musk and plenty of other Silicon Valley power brokers aim to directly connect human brains to the internet, providing us with immediate access to the treasure trove of information available to web users. Such a direct data connection would heighten intellect, improve efficiency in every regard and empower those saddled by otherwise crippling diseases and maladies.