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Brain Electrodes Help Injured Man To Speak Again 88

An anonymous reader writes "A man beaten and left for dead has recovered the power of speech thanks to the use of electrodes to stimulate brain activity. 'Experts called the results encouraging but cautioned that the experimental treatment must be tried in more patients before its value can be assessed. The researchers are already proceeding with a larger study. Before the electrodes were implanted, the man was in what doctors call a "minimally conscious state." That means he showed only occasional awareness of himself and his environment. In a coma or vegetative state, by contrast, patients show no outward signs of awareness.'"
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Brain Electrodes Help Injured Man To Speak Again

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  • by Yold ( 473518 ) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @04:19AM (#20119305)
    I think that within my lifetime (21 yrs old), medical advancements will transcend what is historically possible with medicine. If not for this experiment, a doctor would have told this guy's parents to read-up on making their house handicapped accessable, and learning about strategies for caring for the tramatically brain-injured.
        Medicine is whack. 90% of the time (admittedly bullshit statistic) doctors literally put band-aids on patients, tell them that life is painful, and send them on their way. I used to process medical documents into an EMR system, and although I am not medically trained, the most common solutions to back-pain seemed to be life-style changes, dope (perscription opiates), and invasive (life-threatening) surgery.
        I have often wondered if, in the future, it will be possible to get a brain-implant that shuts off offending portions of the CNS. Instead of adjusting the body to deal with mental anguish (pain), why not adjust the body. I'm hoping by the time I need back-surgery for the 2 broken disc that are giving me pain already, it is going to be brain-surgery instead.

    Any medical professionals care to share the feasability of brain-implants as a way of treating pain or other conditions not limited to the CNS, as TFA suggests the tech's use is for?
    • by Yold ( 473518 )
      "why not adjust the body"

          Excuse me

              why not adjust the brain?
    • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @04:46AM (#20119407)
      In most cases, pain is there for a reason. If you're back hurts, you probably did something wrong with your body- lifted something the wrong way, twisted the wrong way, etc. Pain is your bodies way of saying "don't do that". So yes, most of the time the correct answer is to change your life style- stop doing things that harm your body. Its ironic that you complain about doctors using band-aid treatments, then think that a technique to mask the pain from your brain while continuing to deteriorate your body is a *good* idea. In reality its about the worst thing you could do- you'll continue to fuck up your back, without nay feedback of how badly you're doing so. The end result will be you in a wheelchair.
      • In many cases, the pain was created by actual trauma, but remains long after the trauma is gone. Jerry Lewis estimates that he did 19,000 pratfalls during his career playing a bumbling fool (basically the same act as the "Jackass" guys do now, without the life-threatening setups, drug use, or foul language). Jerry's act left him with 37 years of excruciating pain, long after the pratfalls had ended. Even after his back had healed from all of its injuries, the pain remained, to the point that he had major de
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jafiwam ( 310805 )
        Well, in the "sore back" example, often the initial problem with the patient is that there is not enough muscle mass around the spine to cope with daily living. The solution to that IS NOT less daily living. The solution is "muscle up your back a bit, moron". Which involves exercise and some pain.

        IN ADDITION, there are very well documented scientifically done papers that strongly indicated that "my back hurts" is best cured by regular activity with pain management. Lying in bed prolongs the problem, doi
      • As someone who has rhumatoid arthritis and spends every minute of every day in pain, I would welcome such a device. There is no cure for RA and I'm already taking the current available treatments. Something like this would benifit many people in similar situations where there is nothing you can do except "live with it". I'd much rather be pain free and deal with the other issues with RA then deal with both and I'm more then sure there are lots of other people that would fully agree.
    • Sticking electrodes in your brain is far more is invasive and life threatening than back surgery. Pain is a good thing, people that lose sensation in limbs often end up losing those limbs.
      • by zorbid ( 634449 )
        Surgery isn't needed to tune the CNS. This study shows that fMRI feedback allows to modulate the pain perception []. People (chronic pain pain patients and control subjects) were able to learn to voluntarily deactivate the brain region that links pain perception and emotion, thereby reducing their subjecive painful experience.

        BTW, although acute pain is indeed a useful signal, the nervous system sometimes goes awry and becomes permanently sensitzed to pain or even sometimes generates pain. In these chronic
        • I agree, but I'd try yoga, physiotherapy and other alternatives long before I'd try these freaky procedures, including voluntary deactivation of brain centres. That can't be good for the patient, however you spin it.
    • Any medical professionals care to share the feasability of brain-implants as a way of treating pain or other conditions not limited to the CNS, as TFA suggests the tech's use is for?

      IINADoctor, but rather I am a patient. I suffer from a condition called essential tremor. In a nutshell it is a kinetic based tremor, where the more precise I attempt to position my hands the more shaky I get (how's that for sucky). Parkinson's, on the other hand, is nearly the opposite, where tremors occur at rest.

      Now, to the point. I can be given an implant into the hypo-thalamus(sp?) that when the electrode is active the tremors stop. Or I can be given ablation (burn away part of the thalamus) and t

    • The body needs pain. It assists with the healing process.
  • by mdenham ( 747985 ) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @04:49AM (#20119427)

    ...that it's possible to get a man to start speaking by implanting electrodes.

    Now can we develop a cell phone that will implant the electrodes on its own, to get people to stop talking?

  • So "A man beaten and left for dead has recovered the power of speech thanks to the use of electrodes to stimulate brain activity." Nothing new here, Doctor Frankenstein pioneered this technology long ago.Of course the monstor was a parody of human life. And that's the point; this is scientific expermentation playing on the emotions of the patients and their relatives, who quite often are more concerned with their inability to let go rather than the patient's real welfare. If we are honest with ourselves, ho
    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      I don't see anything sacred in death. The whole point of medicine is to fight it. We respect it only because we know that this is an unavoidable end for our existence, but most of us would be happy to see it eradicated. If that goes against human dignity, register me as posthuman.
    • by Svenne ( 117693 )
      Who are you to decide that for this man? Just because you feel that way doesn't mean everybody else does.
  • by rollingcalf ( 605357 ) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @07:10AM (#20119967)
    ... and crush their skulls as badly as they did to this guy.

    Then we could use them as experimental subjects to develop a reliable treatment for others. If the treatment makes them recover, send them to prison for more beatings. Rinse and repeat.
  • "Owww! Ouch! Aaargh! Stop shocking my braiAAAAAAAaargh! Bastards!"
  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @08:25AM (#20120285) Journal
    What I find really interesting in such stories is that it helps fight the idea that the brain is a monolithic black box that is either on or off. This story is already a few days old and I have found sources when it says that the guy was brought back from coma thanks to electrodes. The fact is, that he never were in coma, he had a minimal set of brain function activated, occasionally he would say "yes" or "no" to simple questions but was not autonomous at all, his conscious "drive" completely gone. Now an electrodes pulses in the zone of the brain associated to consciousness but he still is not the same person as he was. Some memories are back, he can talk again, move again (I suppose in a wheelchair, I read somewhere he won't be able to walk again before several years) and has some desires again.

    But having reading headlines about this story shows how uncomfortable people are with the notion that some part of your brain can be switched off without living you dead, just... different.
  • I'd rather die than live like that. Unfortunately, this guy doesn't have a choice anymore.
  • Limitations (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ar1550 ( 544991 )
    Unfortunately, this technology is somewhat limited right now, allowing the patient only to express "yes" and "no" as one and two beeps, respectively. The next implementation of the device will be somewhat more expressive, allowing the patient to express abstract concepts such as "guilty" and "double guilty."
  • Well worth the read, by the way.

panic: kernel trap (ignored)