News / Health

Study: Electric Brain Stimulation Alleviates Some Disorders

Study: Electric Brain Stimulation Alleviates Some Disordersi
X
Greg Flakus
June 10, 2014 10:08 PM
Modern medicine relies mainly on drugs to cure or alleviate disorders, but for some conditions doctors apply electrical stimulation. The pacemaker, for example, helps weak hearts maintain a steady beat. Scientists are now using electrical pulses in the brain to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease. And, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, electrical stimulation may soon be used for a variety of other conditions.
Greg Flakus
Modern medicine relies mainly on drugs to cure or alleviate disorders, but for some conditions doctors apply electrical stimulation.  The pacemaker, for example, helps weak hearts maintain a steady beat.  Scientists are now using electrical pulses in the brain to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease. With such advances, electrical stimulation may soon be used for a variety of other conditions.

Just being able to walk and interact with people is a great gift for David Dewsnap.
 
His Parkinson's disease was resistant to standard treatments, so doctors planted electrodes deep in his brain.

The Deep Brain Stimulation System developed by the Medtronic Corporation consists of two parts: thin wires implanted in the region of the brain associated with movement and a battery pack that produces electrical pulses.
 
Before the implants, Dewsnap says he could not even take a short walk.
 
"It has given me my life back. This procedure has been just amazing for me.  Without seeing me before, you don't really understand what it was like. The left side of my body, I could not use it really," says Dewsnap.
 
At Rice University, electrical engineer and neuroscientist Caleb Kemere has been using brain stimulation in experiments on rats.
 
But while he knows this treatment works, he says researchers still are not sure how.
 
"We are probably making it work not as it is supposed to work, but in a new way that allows movements to happen faithfully or for a tremor to go away," he says.
 
Kemere says the electrical stimulation may trick the brain by mimicking the function of the chemical dopamine in controlling motor activity.
 
To attack other disorders, Kemere wants to develop a brain stimulation system that would work with a feedback loop to adjust its own output.
 
"We propose to take this and then expand into something that has a much more complicated processor like the one that is found in your cell phone that can process incoming signals that we actually would be getting from the brain in real time, understand what is going on and then modulate the brain stimulation in response to that," says Kemere.
 
He says such a system could help people with epilepsy, depression, bipolar disorder and other problems,. But Kemere says, first, researchers need to overcome a couple of small problems.
 
"We don't know what signal to use, and we don't know how to do that modulation," admits Kemere.
 
In trying to answer those questions, Caleb Kemere is being helped by a grant from the National Science Foundation. He believes within five years there could be experimental devices to alleviate some mental disorders, just as a stimulation device helped David Dewsnap walk again.

You May Like

Ukraine President Appeals for More US Support

Speaking before Congress ahead of meeting with President Obama, Petro Poroshenko urges lawmakers to back Ukraine in its quest for freedom and democracy More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to the Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20B in India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high-profile visit More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Nancy Garcia from: California
June 11, 2014 10:31 AM
The opening was a good introduction to neuromodulation as a new class of therapies.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid