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Biotech Science

'Brain Pacemakers' Being Tested 352

Posted by simoniker
from the jolt-to-the-synapses dept.
meshmar writes "Shades of 'The Terminal Man'? Rob Stein of The Washington Post has reported, via MSNBC, that: 'A handful of scientists around the world have begun cautiously experimenting with devices implanted in patients' bodies to deliver precisely targeted electrical stimulation to the brain in hopes of treating otherwise hopeless behavioral, neurological and psychiatric disorders.' A lot of good can come out of this - potentially. But I can see a the potential for misuse too."
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'Brain Pacemakers' Being Tested

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  • nah, probably not. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) * on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:15PM (#8500970) Homepage
    Shades of 'The Terminal Man'?

    According to the novel a man with "psychomotor epilepsy" was severely hurting/killing people w/no memories of the events. He was implanted with some sort of device that shocked areas of his brain and stopped the seizures before they happened. The doctors chose an area of the brain that was the pleasure center. The brain began CAUSING seizures to get the shocks.

    So, as long as they don't put the shocks into the pleasure centers this should work out! Sci-fi for the masses!

    Note: I am only basing this on the book. IANANS (neurosurgeon).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:19PM (#8501020)
      The possiblities are astounding! Buy a Microsoft product, get an orgasm!
    • by Otter (3800) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:30PM (#8501172) Journal
      So, as long as they don't put the shocks into the pleasure centers this should work out!

      I think the concern is that people would do precisely that. After all, it happened on both Futurama *and* the Simpsons, so naturally it's of grave concern to the Slashdot editors.

    • by woohoodonuts (734070) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:35PM (#8501225)
      Moreover, researchers say, the treatment has the advantage of being able to be simply turned off or removed if it does not work or if problems occur.
      Nevertheless, the research arouses fears of reviving the reckless use of brain surgery, about the wisdom of poking around in what some consider the font of a person's humanity, about oversimplifying mental illness as a purely biological problem, and the temptation to move too quickly to try out new technologies.

      and then I read this
      A lot of good can come out of this - potentially. But I can see a the potential for misuse too.

      My question is this: what technology has been created in the past that COULD NOT have potentially been misused? Sure, you invented a pencil... a whole lot of good could come from this--but some dejected office worker could jam it in someone's ear too...

      This technology has the potential to be fantastic. Sure, a crazy mad scientist somewhere could definitely mess someone up pretty bad with this stuff--but how many medical procedures are already performed now where the doctor Doesn't have to power to seriously mess the patient up?

      I support this technology... Yeah, sure... Doctor's may be able to kill someone with it... but they also may just run someone over on the sidewalk driving home. And before anyone starts ranting about thousands of armies full of pacemaker brain-people... cut me a break. (although it would probably make a pretty cool book) There's too many things that are not directly related to science for that to happen... so the argument isnt' exactly with the science but with the implementation of it... There are more holes... also, but they're not on-topic to this discussion....

      Give science a break... this stuff could save lives and help out a lot of people.
  • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:17PM (#8500988)
    in a kinder, more gentle way. Instead of causing huge pain in reformed criminals when they hear music, you can now just give them "corrective shocks" for the misbehaving brain segment! Next, we'll all be stepping in lock-step....
    • by segment (695309) <sil@politrix. o r g> on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:29PM (#8501158) Homepage Journal
      Things look far more frightening, in fact. Genetic weapons could do more than destroy an ethnic group. They could kill according to a person's 'usefulness' or 'talents'. American journalist and bestselling author Thom Hartmann has argued that it would even be possible to kill those with the gene for attention deficit disorder. This means that if you are easily distracted and have a hard time concentrating (there could be other selection criteria as well), you could end up marked for destruction. The Mark of Doom [politrix.org] Finally! A solution for those trolls
    • by geekee (591277) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:36PM (#8501251)
      I think you misunderstood the book, or have oversimplified it. He was conditioned to feel ill when thinking about pychotic behavior using drugs. However, one of the movies used to condition him used Beethoven's 9th, which he then became ill when hearing. The govt. removed the conditioning because it was determined that the rights of this pychopath were violated since he could no longer enjoy Beethoven.
    • by yet another coward (510) <yacoward&yahoo,com> on Monday March 08, 2004 @07:21PM (#8503857)
      Do you really think it would be so bad? Unless it were targeted to an area of the brain involved in pain processing, it would not be painful. If we were able to isolate the roots of antisocial behavior precisely enough to know certain brain areas and pathways, it might be cruel not to treat. Autonomy is a central idea of modern medicine and modern governments, and I would not advocate performing such procedures on a competent person against her or his wishes. Such treatments for people who could benefit, however, should be a goal.
  • by ageoffri (723674) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:17PM (#8500993)
    Daryl McBride. There has to be something wrong with his brain and some nice little shocks couldn't hurt him.

  • Reserve one, under the name George W. Bush. He'll need a lot of boosting in that section. Thank you.
  • by spribyl (175893) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:18PM (#8500998)
    Didn't the bad dudes in Battle Field Earth have implants that caused them to be extra agressive and bad actors.
  • no good. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Quasar1999 (520073) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:18PM (#8501001) Journal
    Trust me, I speak from experience... I've electricuted myself enough times to know that only bad things come of passing electricity through the brain via outside stimulus... (notice my horrible spelling, contrary to popular belief, I used to be good at spelling until I decided to staple a live electrical wire...)
    • Re:no good. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot@monkele ... .com minus punct> on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:25PM (#8501120)
      Actually for SEVERE depression electric shocks can be a treatment. It is considered a last resort though. For some patients its the only thing that does any good. I recall seeing a 20/20 about it. They shock you in a controlled environment, and the treatments effects last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The guy they interviewed was unresponsive to meds but got some relief from the shock treatments.
      • Re:no good. (Score:5, Informative)

        by baryon351 (626717) on Monday March 08, 2004 @04:07PM (#8501624)
        I'm a candidate for ECT. I'd like to get it done sooner rather than later, as years of all kinds of therapy & drugs have done absolutely nil. It gets tiring going over some similar variation on the drugs/therapy routing, working up a little hope for just a slight improvement, to still go no further.

        I wouldn't like to see ECT or probes in the brain used as a first resort for someone who'd been depressed for a couple of weeks, as a little help can go a LONG way in many people.

        The shocks used in ECT are quite controlled, with muscle relaxants to minimise any muscular contraction that goes along with the shock. It works for some reason, and that reason isn't exactly known. Personally I don't give a shit why it works or how, or even if it wipes 20 years from my life. Chronic treatment resistant depression has laid waste to the last 20 years of my life, doing nothing isn't going to make the next 20 any better.
        • Re:no good. (Score:3, Informative)

          It certainly is a frightening proposition, but I want to counter some of the stupid /. jokes. You seem to understand the procedure well, almost certainly more than I do. I will add a little more, though.

          Typically, a person has a few treatments within a few days. The mechanism of its action is mysterious. It works very well for some people, though. The most likely adverse effect is amnesia, especially for events surrounding the therapy. The recovery from depression can be very fast compared to medications.
        • rTMS vs. ECT (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Amaranthyne (312785)
          FYI, there's another option besides ECT. There's a new technology called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). brief intro here [musc.edu]

          rTMS seems to have cured the depression that I had going on for the last 10 years (I'm 22). I'd tried nearly every kind of antidepressant, with no good/lasting results, and was ready to off myself, as I didn't consider ECT an option due to the risk of memory loss and/or brain damage. I was the one to mention rTMS to my last shrink (learned about it online, Wired mig
        • by TackyF (739347)
          I've had ECT. Eight times over two weeks in 2002. I have some memory loss surrounding that time, but I was in the middle of a two month psych stay and I know I didn't miss much. My personality wasn't erased. It is a last resort - when I got to that point I hoped it would erase the prior 4 years. But it didn't, and the procedures eliminated the psychotic symptoms I had and helped reduce the depression for several months.
          Given the history of ECT it was a very scary thing for me to consent to, but if it w
    • Re:no good. (Score:2, Funny)

      by OwlWhacker (758974)
      My experience with electrocution taught me never to trust old vacuum tube radios again.

      It did help me uncover an unknown vocal talent though...
  • Yikes.

    http://penguinppc.org/~hollis/personal/bergeron. sh tml
  • by g0bshiTe (596213)
    This would be a good thing. If I had an implant I could program my computer at work to monitor my brainwaves. When they showed I was asleep my system could give me a little wake up jolt.

    "3M We don't make your brain. We make it better."
  • V-Chip? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MalaclypseTheYounger (726934) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:18PM (#8501012) Journal
    Dr. Vosknocker: Now, I want you to say "doggy".
    Cartman: Doggy.
    Dr. Vosknocker: [to audience] Notice, that nothing happens. [to Cartman] Now, say "montana".
    Cartman: Montana.
    Dr. Vosknocker: Good. Now, "pillow".
    Cartman: Pillow.
    Dr. Vosknocker: Alright. Now I want you to say "horse f*cker".
    Mrs. Cartman: Go on, honey. It's alright.
    Cartman: Horse fu-- [gets shocked by the V-chip] That hurts, god damn it!
    [gets shocked again]
    Dr. Vosknocker: Now I want you to say "big floppy donkey dick".
    Cartman: No!
    Dr. Vosknocker: [to audience] Success! The child doesn't want to swear!
    Cartman: This isn't fair, you sons of bi--
    [gets shocked repeatedly]
  • by druske (550305) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:19PM (#8501015)
    "...researchers have begun testing on monkeys to see whether the devices might suppress appetite, and perhaps boost metabolism, in obese people..."
    "Eat less or we'll CUT YOUR SKULL OPEN AND STICK A CHIP IN YOUR HEAD!"

    Yeah, I think that would suppress my appetite...
  • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:19PM (#8501016) Homepage
    I wonder if the progress of science in treating "mental illness" is potentially reducing the creativity of our race.

    It's long been know that genius is "in bed" with madness.

    Some of these "mad" people probably aren't mad at all.. they're just rather odd but that oddity gives can give them brilliant insight!

    Simon.
    • It's long been know that genius is "in bed" with madness.

      No, it has NOT "long been known" that genius is in bed with madness. IQ has never significantly correleated with any mental disorders.

      However, mental illness DOES correleate well with poverty.

      And any correleation between mental illness and creativity is clearly and demostratably false. These illnesses are most often a serious disability to people with otherwise normal intelligence and creativity. To suggest to these people that it's some sort of

      • by frankie (91710) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:59PM (#8501500) Journal
        any correleation between mental illness and creativity is clearly and demostratably false

        I think you need to have a word with the authors of published studies linking creativity and mental illness [google.com], because psych researchers at multiple universities disagree with your declaration.

        A substantial and disproportionate number of world-famous writers and artists suffered from cyclothymia [google.com], if not full-blown manic-depression.
        • Ok, I read you link to Cyclothymic Personality Disorder [google.com]. This is the most ridicules "disorder" ever invented. Just read it: has periods of sharpened and creative thinking alternating with periods of mental confusion and apathy; has depressive periods: depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities etc. etc. What this "disorder" do is really stigmatizes normal life with our ups and downs. This is what modern clinical psychology is all about to turn all of us into some kind o
      • No, it has NOT "long been known" that genius is in bed with madness. IQ has never significantly correleated with any mental disorders. ... And any correleation between mental illness and creativity is clearly and demostratably false.

        Whoa, slow down. You are not making sense. First, IQ *does* correlate with certain mental illnesses -- negatively. For example people with a Down's syndrome have very low IQ.

        However that's neither here, nor there. We are talking about *geniuses* -- the far right tail of the I
  • Ever see the movie Southpark? Remember the device that zapped Cartman
    everytime he cursed? I wonder how long, given human nature, something like
    this is used for evil purposes. I don't mean to cast a shadow over what could
    be a very worthy achivement, but it behooves us to properly consider the
    possible...adverse reprocussions.

    SealBeater
  • Oh God no, I'll never let them put one of their mind control thingies in me. I swear, if I ever found out that they tried to put something like that in my head, I would take their stupid implant and#FA3T32FEAFf3#r325[NO CARRIER]
  • by segment (695309) <sil@politrix. o r g> on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:20PM (#8501031) Homepage Journal
    This is your brain on DARPA. any questions?

    DARPA researchers are also at work on the "Brain Machine Interface" ("neuromics") project, designed as a mind/machine interface, allowing mechanical devices to be controlled via thought-power. Thus far, researchers have taught a monkey to move a computer mouse and a telerobotic arm simply by thinking about it. With arrays of up to 96 electrodes implanted in their brains, the animals are able to reach for food with a robotic arm. Researchers even transmitted the signals over the internet, allowing remote control of an robotic arm 600 miles away. In the future they hope to develop a "non-invasive interface" for human use. Says DARPA, "The long-term Defense implications of finding ways to turn thoughts into acts, if it can be developed, are enormous: imagine U.S. warfighters that only need use the power of their thoughts to do things at great distances." For years, the U.S. military has been improving its ability to reach out and kill someone. What's the mantra of the future? Maybe, if you think it, they will die. Wild weapons of DARPA [politrix.org]

  • ha! (Score:5, Funny)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:20PM (#8501033)
    they can have control over my brain when they pry it out of my cold, dead skull!
    • You say that like they don't already have control.

      Damn, what the hell is that black helicopter doing hovering above my hou*(&H#R~(*#Q

      NO CARRIER
  • Interesting (Score:2, Funny)

    by SteveXE (641833)
    Hi im ::ZAP!:: Steve, dont mind ::ZAP!:: me i use to ::ZAP!:: suffer from anxiety atta ::ZAP!:: cks. Now i just ::ZAP!:: stutter.
  • devices implanted in patients' bodies to deliver precisely targeted electrical stimulation to the brain

    Yeah, they should watch the resistor values in that thing very very carefully.
  • by hoggoth (414195)
    Dance mailman, dance!
    zzzzzap!

  • Slightly off-topic, but some doctors use the term "brain attack" to refer to a cerebral stroke. This term better reflects are quick and serious strokes are.
  • ...get this urge to build a large electromagnet and aim at the head of someone with this implant? Just for the 'scientific value' off course *evil smile*

    • No no no, you want to use a HERF gun. Magnetism won't do much if it's all integrated, but high energy RF will. In fact it could flip open gates and cause the thing to shock, though it could also cause it to do nothing. "In the future", devices like this will have to be designed such that HERF won't activate them, they will have to have some device (perhaps MEMS-constructed) which will disable its power source entirely while substantial interference is received, or they won't be licensed.
  • noozflash! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:21PM (#8501061) Journal
    But I can see a the potential for misuse too."

    Gee. Ya think?

    Can we once and for all just declare that ANYTHING can be misued and be done with it? It's not exactly secret Jedi lore.

    • Re:noozflash! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:28PM (#8501149) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, some things just happen to be more easily misused. For example:

      A fork can kill a person.
      A bomb can kill a person.

      Don't you think that such concerns are more warranted when someone builds a new kind of bomb than when they build a new kind of fork?

      This is a great little device that obviously has abuse written all over it. Even the good guys look at this and cringe. Such devices might look good on paper (or in a controlled lab) but I sure as hell don't want them anywhere else.
      • by sczimme (603413)

        A fork can kill a person.
        A bomb can kill a person.


        eating with a bomb is such a pain. Except with the Claymore mines: they have a nice curved spoon-like shape.

        PS Don't take that 'potato-masher' grenade thing literally.
    • On Slashdot, potential misuses of new technology are always brought up. It's not a bad thing either, because if there is a way to abuse a new tech, someone will try to do it.
      • I'm sorry, it's just a peeve of mine. It should be a given, especially around here, that ANYTHING can be abused.

        Now if someone wants to suggest a particular and likely abuse for discussion, fine.

      • How much you want to bet that Al Quaeda monitors Slashdot for ideas on great new technologies to abuse? It would save a lot of time and effort recruiting and training suicide bombers if you could just shanghai anyone off the street, put a chip in their heads, and make them believe they're on a holy mission to kill infidels, or whatever. The CIA wouldn't need to look for training camps, but operating rooms.
        • Why bother? People stupid enough to believe that when they die killing the infidels they get a free ticket to Heaven with their own private Virgin Brigade are apparently not in short supply.
    • Can we once and for all just declare that ANYTHING can be misued

      There are degrees of misuse. Yes, a hammer can be used to build a nuclear weapon (well, not really, but you get the idea).

      But this technique on the other hand practically invites misuse. Psycotherapy has moved from being a field that was primarily oriented around counseling to a field first-and-foremost about medication. To that particular fox, the hen-house we now present is a tool for electrically modifying mood or stimulus response.

      This
      • Yes, a hammer can be used to build a nuclear weapon (well, not really, but you get the idea).

        Actually, used carefully, a hammer could possibly set off a nuclear weapon. :-)

        I don't think it's out of line to point out the potential for abuse.

        Eh... it just seems so -5 Redundant right off the bat unless the person goes on to suggest a particular type of abuse.

        • Actually, used carefully, a hammer could possibly set off a nuclear weapon. :-)
          Don't use a hammer to detonate a A-bomb. It tends to dent the bomb's case. Please handle your WMD's with care and respect.
  • Heroin, crack, ain't got nuthin' on a street hack of this, buddy.
  • Indeed! (Score:5, Funny)

    by AIX-Hood (682681) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:21PM (#8501063)
    I've been a victiZZZZZT ... beneficiary of this technology and I would like to say it has brought me nothing but extreme paiZZZZZZT ... joy as I see that other people may now implanted with this horrifiZZZZZZZZZTTTT ... hopeful device.
  • Technology (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrugCheese (266151) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:21PM (#8501067)
    Any technology can be used for good or evil. A board with a nail through it can be the beginning of a house for the homeless, or an instrument to bloody someone to death.

    I'm a huge fan of new technology and was wondering when someone would start to broach this area. I've read several pages of different universities [cornell.edu] that were playing with this including my favorite Caltech [caltech.edu]. This is great as it's a step away from just having the patient hardwired into a computer system.

  • by ghettoboy22 (723339) * <scott.a.johnson@gmail.com> on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:22PM (#8501078) Homepage
    OK so my first reaction brings back memories of a naked Patrick Stewart but I digress....
  • "You've got the crazies. I prescribe 5 milliamps every 3 hours."
  • Acupuncture for the brain, the heart, ....
  • by david_reese (460043) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:24PM (#8501106)
    Great short story [penguinppc.org] by Kurt Vonnegut. From the first few paragraphs:

    Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron's fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

    It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

  • by mal0rd (323126) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:25PM (#8501118) Homepage
    I really doubt this has much potential for misuse. Whatever misuse I can think of there is an easier method already invented. I mean if you let somebody stick an electronic gismo into your body you probably are desperate or out of your mind enough to submit to most anything. That comment by the poster really needs to be backed up. Until this it's just typical slashdot ramblings.
  • Epileptic Stimulator (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Br0therShin (760273) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:28PM (#8501140)
    Yeah, They have these for people with epilepsy. they stimulate the Vagus Nerve by sending periodic shocks.. I guess the idea is to set some regularity for the brain to base by.. but does anyone else think its dangerous to send shocks into nerves? Wouldent the heart be impacted etc?
  • Misuse? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by friendofafriend (602350) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:28PM (#8501147)
    But I can see a the potential for misuse too

    Come on, do you really think that? How many deaths from intentional frying of heart pacemakers have there been?

    • Re:Misuse? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JeanBaptiste (537955)
      well the first thing I thought of was... (recreational) drugs. think (rec)drugs mess up your mind now, wait till we get electronic computerized drugs...
  • *Zap* (Score:5, Funny)

    by whitelabrat (469237) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:29PM (#8501155)
    I have a brain pacemaker and it sucks...*ZAP*

    I mean they're fantastic.

  • "treating otherwise hopeless behavioral,
    Desire to check email "one last time" before bed

    neurological
    Thinking of the internet as a living entity with rights of its own, or less drastically as existing in a different legal space than 'the big blue box'

    and psychiatric disorders"
    Software is imbued with a desire to be free.

    -Adam
  • How ironic (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "A lot of good can come out of this - potentially. But I can see a the potential for misuse too."

    It's pretty ironic that the editor is paranoid about a procedure to cure paranoia.
  • Maybe this technology will pave the way for other brain modifications. Maybe they could improve memory and thought in people. Could it be a future without computer monitors? /still afraid of OnStar

    -
  • T. F. Gumby: Are you the brain specialist?

    Specialist: No, no, I am not the brain specialist. No, no, I am not... Yes. Yes I am.
  • This may deliver precisely coordinated jolts of electricity upon detecting reduced brain activity...

    Finally a device which will stop me falling asleep during those boring meetings ;)
  • I can't read the article. For some reason this usually happens with MSN sites. I doubt I'm the only one, so could someone post it here?
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:39PM (#8501279)
    ..Treating the brain like a ROM, and being able to get a complete "brain state"? I imagine it would be difficult, a bit like reading a quantum computer, in that using any signal to read the state may reinforce some linkages, thus changing the system.

    Being able to "back up" a mind would definetly be one of those day-the-universe-changed moments. If death could mean more a loss of short-term memory since last backup, rather than loss of known existence, almost every aspect of our culture would be shaken to its core. Any number of results could be imagined.

    Even if not in ROM-style form, some form of human-as-information seems innevitable. From emulation, to virtual-life recreation, to any number of things, the human experience may not be limited to DNA & brains forever. What that means for the presumed entities behind our eyes, we do not know. But perhaps that expansion of information is part of whatever human nature is.

    Ryan Fenton
    • Ryan,

      You MUST read Cory Doctorow's
      Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom

      It talks about backing up brains and the effect it has on a human society.

      http://craphound.com/down/download.php

      It's free, too!
      Great story!
    • as others have said: the answer is a long, long way away.

      simplest case scenario -- you need to trace every axon, find every dendrite it interfaces with, and measure the strength of the synapse, and take down the type of neurotransmitter(s) and receptor(s) used -- there are generally several configurations of receptor for each neurotransmitter, and there are at least a dozen identified neurotransmitters.

      As you mentioned, measuring synaptic strength will modify the synapse. And of course there's currentl

  • by p4ul13 (560810) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:39PM (#8501287) Homepage
    Y'know; I *HAVE* been thinking about overclocking my brain. Of course, the heat-sink would be a bit awkward.
  • that would be able to keep me from reading /. compulsively.

    btw, what is up with the mini-flag at the top of the page?

  • It works. (Score:5, Informative)

    by forand (530402) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:47PM (#8501366) Homepage
    A family friend has a daughter which such a disorder and has had something similar to this implanted in her for over a year. It has reduced the frequency and intensity of the seizures since she has had it. It does cause some discomfort at a regular interval to prevent seizures but it is a small price to pay, viewed by the parents and the child, to have less seizure. This is a great technology that needs more development.
  • wow (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bmac (51623)
    When can I get my nervous system jacked so my reflexes will go with the gear?

    Seriously, though, I can't imagine there *not* being some sort of long-term damage from piping too much non-biogenerated electricity through some sub-section of the brains neural net.

    Of course, our medical establishment is giving extremely powerful central nervous system stimulants to our youth, so we know *they* don't care.

    Bonus points if you get both Gibson quotes.

    Peace & Blessings,
    bmac
  • The Cartman jokes...
  • Can you? (Score:3, Funny)

    by djupedal (584558) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:49PM (#8501408)
    But I can OUCH! see a the OUCH! potential for OUCH! misuse too.

    OUCH! Dammit! Stop that!

    Sort of Clockwork Orangesque, eh?
  • ... i know that microwave ovens and serious radio signals can cause havoc for pacemakers...

    But with a brain pacemaker, does this mean that someone can blow away everyone in say, a Best Buy store or convenience store and say "THEM WIRES IN ME HAID MADE ME DO IT!!"

    ??

    i know this sounds kinda off the deep end, but fwiw, i can attest that subwoofers (or any deep bass source such as thumpin' car stereos) *do* resonate in my skull and make be both nauseous and VERY irritable, such as instantly furious about min
  • Overclock! (Score:4, Funny)

    by psyconaut (228947) on Monday March 08, 2004 @03:57PM (#8501483)
    Yeah, let's overclock one of these puppies! ;-)

    -psy
  • Delgado (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kaa (21510) on Monday March 08, 2004 @04:01PM (#8501533) Homepage
    Anyone interested in the subject should google for the name Delgado. The guy worked back in the 60s and implanted electrodes in animals' brains to see what stimulating certain regions does.

    One of his most well-known umm... party tricks involved him getting into a bull-fighting arena with a bull. The bull had an electrode implanted in its brain, and Delgado had a wireless transmitter in his hands. The bull charged, Delgado pressed a button, and the bull came to a screeching halt.
  • by Millennium (2451) on Monday March 08, 2004 @04:08PM (#8501636) Homepage
    The only way I can see these things as ethically allowable is if it is mandatory that they be developed in such a way that the user can remove them at will, or failing that, that they can be deactivated at will in such a manner that only the user can reactivate them.

    Abuse of these things must be impossible, not just legally but technically, before I could ever bring myself to accept them as anything but a dehumanizing abomination.
  • History of Lobotomy (Score:5, Informative)

    by cartman (18204) on Monday March 08, 2004 @04:17PM (#8501759)

    The article briefly mentioned the dark history of psychosurgery. A few interesting details were omitted however.

    The most popular kind of psychosurgery ever done was the prefontal lobotomy. This technique had something of a heyday in the 1940s.

    The gentleman who invented the lobotomy (Freeman) lacked any surgical training. He would perform the procedure on an outpatient basis; he drove around the countryside in his "loboto-mobile" (quite seriously) and performed thousands of the operations himself.

    His method of lobotomizing involved jamming an icepick through the eye socket with a hammer, until the icepick was deeply recessed within the brain. Then he would wiggle the icepick around vigorously. (I'm not making this up). The entire procedure took less than 5 minutes. A hospital visit was unnecessary.

    Freeman went around the country demonstrating the procedure in mental hospitals etc. The technique fell out of favor in the 1950s, when it was learned that lobotomies had no therapeutic value whatsoever, and often had severe and permanent side-effects.

  • by Featureless (599963) on Monday March 08, 2004 @04:29PM (#8501911) Journal
    OK, we have a "computer" here in the lab that's crashing a lot, and losing people's data, and we have this new theory for how to fix it. I don't exactly know how these "computers" work, of course, so we can't be sure... but we have some ideas gleaned we from when we used to just get rid of them when they broke. A lot of times, we'd take a computer out of the garbage pile and see what was inside. They're mostly green plastic in there. Lots of very small, small parts - too small for the eye to see. No one knows how they all work together, yet, but we put one in an X-Ray and gave it an MRI and we notice that certain parts are hotter than others when the computer is doing different tasks. Also, we put a computer in the blender and then studied the little chunks under a microscope. So we're definitely making progress.

    Based on all this we figure Jim in maintenance can insert some electrical probes into the "chips" and send in little shocks with just the right voltage to stop Microsoft Word from crashing so much. Plus we think it might really help our Quake 3 framerates.

    We think this could be better than the best idea we've had so far, having computer therapists sit with them and press different keys to try to recreate past successes we've had by trial and error. It couldn't be worse than our previous attempts, which involved just putting unruly computers in the closet until they got better on their own, or administering electric shocks to the outside of the case, or (my favorite) just taking the sucker down to the shop and really giving it a good whack on the drill press.

    Somebody call Discover Magazine.
  • by Baldrson (78598) on Monday March 08, 2004 @05:01PM (#8502365) Homepage Journal
    Anthony Burgess, author of the book "A Clockwork Orange" was the artist in residence while I was in the undergraduate program at the Iowa City Writer's Workshop [uiowa.edu] back in 1974. I think he based his book on the work of Jose M.R. Delgado, M.D. published under the book with the damn spooky title: "Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society [amazon.com]".

    I managed to get a copy of the book finally, and discovered wonderful passages such as the following on page 115:

    ESB [electrical stimulation of the brain -- JAB] may evoke more elaborate responses. For example, in one of our patients, electrical stimulation of the rostral part of the internal capsule produced head turning and slow displacement of the body to either side with a well-oriented and apparently normal sequence, as if the patient were looking for something. This stimulation was repeated six times on two different days with comparable results. The interesting fact was that the patient considered the evoked activity spontaneous and always offered a reasonable explanation for it. When asked, "What are you doing?" the answers were, "I am looking for my slippers," "I heard a noise," "I am restless," and "I was looking under the bed." In this case it was difficult to ascertain whether the stimulation had evoked a movement which the patient tried to justify, or if an hallucination had been elicited which subsequently induced the patient to move and to explore the surroundings.

    This passage is eerily reminiscent of a passage from Richard Dawkins' "The Extended Phenotype [amazon.com]" chapter titled "Host Phenotypes of Parasite Genes":

    "Many fascinating examples of parasites manipulating the behavior of their hosts can be given. For nematomorph larvae, who need to break out of their insect hosts and get into water where they live as adults, '...a major difficulty in the parasite's life is the return to water. It is, therefore, of particular interest that the parasite appears to affect the behavior of its host, and "encourages" it to return to water. The mechanism by which this is achieved is obscure, but there are sufficient isolated reports to certify that the parasite does influence its host, and often suicidally for the host... One of the more dramatic reports describes an infected bee flying over a pool and, when about six feet over it, diving straight into the water. Immediately on impact the gordian worm burst out and swam into the water, the maimed bee being left to die' (Croll 1966)."
  • by DucatiBoy (680350) on Monday March 08, 2004 @06:07PM (#8503201)
    I work as a software engineer for the second biggest medical electronics company in that field (Medtronic being the biggest). I can't speak for them, but nothing goes into an implant that is not supposed to be there for functionality of what it's designed for. With the FDA constantly looking at us, we verify and validate the heck out of these things. My boss actually developed the Epileptic Stimulator pretty much all by himself back in the late 80's and early 90's. It's gone though through testing since then. It takes forever for this stuff to get put into a human. And these things are real simple. If you saw the code in these, there is no way they could do anything "evil". There is just enough code to keep time and shock the nerve ever so often, and some user settings. In order to make these last longer than a few months, the processor is clocked down into the khz and just enough code to get the job done and that's it. In this business it's all about how long the device will last till it has to get explanted. There is no way we would give up longevity for having some government mind control v-chip or something. And I'm not a Dr. but I think the electrical shock doesn't trevel that far, it starts getting "absorbed" as it traveles, so danger to the heart from a nerve stim is pretty much nil. In fact they even see that people who use the Epileptic Stimulator also seem to have a better mood. They think that no only will it help against tremmors, and parkenson's but depression as well. I suppose that if you let your mind run away with you, you could see the potential misuse in just about anything. But with how simple these are and how we want to sell these to help people (and profit) we don't want any bad press, we want people to want these. And there is no way something "bad" could be put in these with no one noticing. And if it got out, it could ruin a company. And I know that we woudln't want that to happen. I feel bad, cause I see how these help people in Europe and the FDA takes such a long time to convence that people suffer while we are jumping though hoops for them. I know people who could be helped now. I guess it's good for lots of testing though. :)
  • by Peterus7 (607982) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:18PM (#8505298) Homepage Journal
    My mom is actually involved with the surguries where they implant this type of thing. Pretty much she has this to say about them:

    -They're effective as all hell
    -They work best for movement disorders, such as Parkinsons, as well as Chronic pain
    -The surgury itself is pretty drastic; you have to literally drill holes in people's heads... And the patient has to be consious. Numbed up, but consious.
    -There are some side effects if it isn't done properly.

    Some of her cases include one guy who had the electrode too deep, which caused a deep depression as it was stimulating too much area. They moved it a notch up, and the depression faded instantly. Another case included a cop that would have to leave his job if he kept on having this chronic pain that kept him from working, but he is not back on the job and loving it.

    One thing she we have talked about is that it would be interesting to use them for psychiatric disorders, but with doctors perscribing ritalin and prozak at the drop of a hat, it's not a good thing to suddenly have holes drilled into kids heads.

    Also, I asked about replacing ECT with Deep brain stimulation for depression, but apparently ECT is much cheaper. Pity.

    Still, this is a LONG way away from stuff like the Matrix and Ghost in a Shell. Currently it just controls overactive areas of the brain that cause neurological diseases, nothing more, nothing less. Don't get your hopes up quite yet.

  • Rant On (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) * on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:14AM (#8506453) Journal
    First, this is not new. Grenoble is behind the curve. I've seen patients with implanted stimulators from years ago. These were for treatment of Parkinson's. It's hardly the optimal solution, but it's the best so far, even better than most of the drugs we use. Some day this will be "stone knives and bear claws". Right now it's cutting edge.

    Second, it is trivial at best to foresee abuses. The trick is in recognizing the over-reaching fact that the abuses never have anything to do with the technology involved. Those who will abuse will do so whether they have an electrical stimulator or just the rubber hammer used to test your reflexes (corrective phrenology, anyone?). These people don't even need technology to do this; they will do it gladly with no technology at all. Focusing on the abuses the technology may be put to takes the focus away from the people who will do such things, allowing them to get on with their business.

    Third, there are a lot of people out there who need something, and society in general dictates that there be someone to take care of them. Hopefully, trained specialists who can help them, but also the sad fact is because most people don't want to have to deal with it. They insist on, and are glad to have, someone fulfill the role required so they don't have to, including having to have the people with problems around them. Unfortunately these people also tend to feel guilty when they see others suffering, and rather than appreciate the fact that someone else is doing the best they can, they get upset because that person is not doing a better job. Sooner or later the people doing the helping get blamed for not being better than they are, ie. they're not perfect.

    Believe it or not, lobotomy was a god send. It still can help many people. People decry electroshock therapy, but the fact is for a lot of people, it's their only hope of a normal life. People got upset that many mental patients were stuck in hospitals with no hope of improvement and so insisted that we let them out; now those same people are no better or worse than they were, but the are far better off, since many of them are the chronic homeless (you won't give them housing, but you won't let us keep them warm and fed).

    If you want to help, aren't of the bent to help develop the tools and techniques to help people like I do, then at least keep your eye out for the kinds of people that will abuse, and get rid of them. They cause us who have to try to help people far more problems than they do others. They give us a bad name and make people suspect us. Root those people out and do something about them. Or else shut the hell up and stop repeating the painfully obvious paternalistic mantra "they might do bad things!". It's helping nothing and it's annoying.

    Rant not off. I'm not done. Not until I stop trying to develop new ways to help people, and that'll probably happen when I die or need that kind of help myself. And it won't end then because I'll train every student of mine along the way to fight this same fight. You want us to do this. You NEED us to this this. Help us do this by focusing on finding abusers and getting rid of them, so we can get on with the role that society demands exist, and we have chosen to fulfill.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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