Deep brain stimulation is a medical procedure that allows doctors to pinpoint areas of the brain that may be causing neurological disorders. Neurosurgeons implant a rod in the patient’s brain that delivers a stream of electricity regulating the activity of that area. The electrical stream can suppress or activated electrodes to stabilize the malfunctioning segments of the brain.
Patients who suffer with depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dystonia are finding immediate relief in the exciting new treatment of deep brain stimulation. Depression, as an example, is caused when the Cg25 area of the brain is overactive. Cg25 is the sadness center of the brain. Dr. Andres Lozano is a pioneer in the emerging technology of DBS and explains how it can be used to treat severe depression.
“We wondered if we could place electrodes in this area of sadness and turn down the activity, and what would be the consequence of that?” Lozano said.
“So we implanted electrodes in area 25, and after six months of continuous stimulation we have a complete reversal; we are able to drive down area 25 to a more normal level, and we’re able to turn back online the motivation areas of the brain,” Lozano said.
Incredible, is it not? To be able to manipulate the brain in such a way was not so long ago thought of as science fiction. But we are seeing it evolve today as one of the most promising methods of treatment for neurological disorders ever. You can watch the full speech by Dr. Lozano online at TED.com, and I suggest you do.
While some of the implications of this technology are clearly beneficial, there are many potential uses for deep brain stimulation that may become questionable. Doctors have said DBS could be used to eliminate fear in the human brain, thus creating the perfect, unflinching soldier. Who is to say people won’t use DBS to enhance their memory capability to give them an edge on the card tables? Or simply use the benefit in the private market, boosting their abilities far above others?
Today this procedure is expensive, but like all medicine, as the technology and use increases, the price decreases. Suppressing the sad Cg25, increasing our memory, sharpening our balance and muscle stimulation could become the norm of our society. The possibilities are limitless.
The ability to enhance the brain in so many ways will no doubt bring serious questions in the future. Andrew Scheip, a recent graduate of FGCU with a degree in history said, “If people start to abuse this technology, it will be considered extremely unethical. The government will definitely need to regulate the use of this technology.”
The use of this technology will no doubt be debated in the years to come. And as DBS becomes more available to more people, who can use it will become a center of national discussion.
Whether for medical purposes or advantageous ones, deep brain stimulation is truly a feat of modern medicine and technology. The ethical questions of the practice are no doubt present but will come only with the medical benefits of lifesaving medicine. Let us never forget where this technology began: healing the sick.