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Medicine Technology

Brain Pacemaker Helps Treat Alzheimer's Disease 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the remember-this dept.
First time accepted submitter Press2ToContinue writes "Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is the use of a pacemaker-like device implanted in the brain to treat the symptoms of diseases like Parkinson's, or other maladies such as depression. For the first time in the US, surgeons at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland have used this technique to attempt to slow memory loss in a patient suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The fornix, a vital part of the brain that brings data to the hippocampus, is being targeted with this device. Essentially, the fornix is the area of the brain that converts electrical activity into chemical activity. Holes are drilled into the skull, and wires are placed on both sides of the brain. Then, the stimulator device pumps in small and unnoticeable electrical impulses upwards of 130 times per second. Half of the patients will begin the electrical treatment two weeks post-surgery, but the other half won't have their pacemakers turned on until a full year after the surgery to provide comparison data for the study."
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Brain Pacemaker Helps Treat Alzheimer's Disease

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  • by James McGuigan (852772) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @11:42AM (#42233713) Homepage

    Now could you use this in a happy healthy brain to become even more happy and healthy?

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      Ah yes...

      Someone who is depressed all the time is obviously sick, but someone who is happy all the time isnt sick.

      This is the same sort of bullshit logic that labels introverts as somehow broken.
      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @12:38PM (#42234061) Homepage

        Being introverted is different from being depressed. A very introverted person (someone who doesn't interact with the outside world) is may appear depressed to a lot of people since most humans tend to run towards the middle of the introversion / extroversion axis. Extremely extroverted people tend to be regarded as 'crazy' or some other pejorative. But said introvert can be happy and feel that life is good in that respect.

        A hallmark of depression is increasing introversion - a breaking of ties to the external world, but the normative curve for introversion is pretty broad. On top of that, different societies have different tolerances for all sorts of human personality traits so it gets ... complicated.

        • by Rockoon (1252108) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @01:54PM (#42234601)

          Being introverted is different from being depressed.

          No shit Sherlock. Doesn't defeat the point, does it?

          Now tell us, why isn't someone that is happy all the time not considered sick?

          Apparently being locked in an emotional or behavioral state is only evidence of a problem if its not an emotional or behavioral state on the approved list.

          • by The Raven (30575)

            Introversion is not unhealthy. Being introverted means preferring a small group of close friends over a wide group of more casual friends. It is not the same as agoraphobic, which is what many people wrongly conflate introversion with. They are not the same thing.

            Introverts tend to be more creative and intellectual; would you seek to 'fix' them all with mental electroshock therapy (logical fallacy used deliberately)? Differences are fine. I have no problem with fixing serious diseases with techniques such a

            • by Rockoon (1252108)

              Introversion is not unhealthy.

              Neither is depression.

              • Introversion is not unhealthy.

                Neither is depression.

                Well, that's not generally true. Depressed individuals score lower on assessments of health or happiness. Depressed individuals have higher rates of illness across the board. There seems to be some indication that depressed individuals are more creative and / or productive and again, you have the issue of a fairly broad and imprecise definition of depression (or normal for that matter) but most people would 'fix' their depression if given the chance (and given effective means of doing so).

                But it is safe t

          • by ultranova (717540)

            No shit Sherlock. Doesn't defeat the point, does it?

            It kinda does, since it makes it a false analogy.

            Now tell us, why isn't someone that is happy all the time not considered sick?

            Mania is considered a sickness. Being non-manic but happy isn't, because why would it be? The poor happy bastard doesn't suffer from it.

            Apparently being locked in an emotional or behavioral state is only evidence of a problem if its not an emotional or behavioral state on the approved list.

            That's literally true since mental illn

          • by sjames (1099)

            Actually, someone perpetually locked in a state of happiness will be subject to any number of diagnosis. Hypomania is one probable one.

            In general though, hypomaniacs aren't troubled by their condition where depressed people generally are.

        • by dhomstad (1424117)

          The whole Myerrs-Briggs type indicator test is a sham.

          And here's why. It only captures one snapshot in time, and that snap shot has relatively low resolution(poor questions).

          Now let's make a big assumption, and assume the MBTI test has great resolution (great questions) on Introversion/Extroversion. It can tell exactly how introverted someone is at a PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME. Then, the people who made the test, assign you to a unique category.

          A whole entire field could be dedicated to the RATES at which hu

    • Now could you use this in a happy healthy brain to become even more happy and healthy?

      All you need to do, is to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain: "It is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin [wikipedia.org]

      Then again, maybe you don't want to be too happy . . . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin_syndrome [wikipedia.org]

      But I don't see how Alzheimer's patients could be depressed. They can't remember anything to get depressed about. And as one patient ironically quipped, "I meet new people who I don't know every day!"

      • I know you're just being flippant regarding depression in Alzheimer's, but one of the big problems with Alzheimer's can be what you do remember. It's not total retro- and anterograde amnesia. My great-uncle developed dementia after a stroke, and was somehow forced into nearly constantly reliving his part in the battle of Stalingrad and subsequent interment in a Russian POW camp. He was unable to recognise some of his own family but remembered more than enough of the events of WW2.

    • which says:

      1. put the device in your pant

      2. setup wi-fi password

      3. open your favorite browser

      4. type www.xvideo.com

      5. ???

      6. more happiness!

    • by gtall (79522)

      Already been invented, the Orgasmatron (see Woody Allen).

  • No, no, no. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seumas (6865) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @11:43AM (#42233723)

    The only thing that terrifies me more than getting something like Alzheimer's and being robbed of my memories and experiences and personality is the idea of having any form of brain surgery. Thinking about this story is the kind of shit that keeps me up at night. :)

  • The Terminal Man (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mu22le (766735) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @12:20PM (#42233947) Homepage Journal

    Isn't this the plot of an old Michael Crichton novel [wikipedia.org]? The only difference is that the protagonist was affected by epilepsia rather than parkinson.

  • Fornix (Score:5, Informative)

    by venicebeach (702856) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @03:24PM (#42235369) Homepage Journal
    "Essentially, the fornix is the area of the brain that converts electrical activity into chemical activity."

    That is an egregious description of the fornix. All of the brain's electrical activity is electro-chemical, and the fornix has no special role that relates to converting electrical activity into chemical activity.

    The fornix is a bundle of axons (i.e. a white matter tract) that connects the hippocampus with the hypothalamus.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Essentially, the fornix is the area of the brain that converts electrical activity into chemical activity.

    This description is complete balderdash (not Slashdot's fault -- the poppycock is taken verbatim from the original article). I can say so with some authority since I have an earned doctorate in Neural Science, with a specialty in neuroanatomy.

    The fornix is a fiber tract from the septal nuclei to the hippocampal formation, a region associated with long term memory storage. Fiber tracts do not particul

  • I thought Alzheimer's sufferers had serious deterioration in brain mass. I don't understand how brain stimulation can help when so much of the brain is physically destroyed.

  • This sounds like the M.O.M. (Mind Over Matter) implants for the "Crazies" OCC from the Palladium "Rifts" dice-and-paper RPG.

    Where electrical implants to stimulate the brain to treat mental-illness were found to have the unintentional beneficial side-effect of stimulating latent psychic powers in patients... which naturally (this being an 80's cyberpunk-with-magic hybrid RPG) led to weaponization.
    However, the implants used to artificially stimulate psychic super-powers in psycho-normative people, would
  • I read the headline and the old Monty Python "New Brain" sketch came to mind.

"I have just one word for you, my boy...plastics." - from "The Graduate"

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