Deep Brain Stimulation Soon Without Surgery

People suffering from major depression, epilepsy and Parkinson's have been helped by deep brain stimulation, which involves implanting an electrode deep into the brain.

Now, Nir Grossman of Imperial College London and his team have found a safer way to experiment with DBS – by stimulating the brain externally, with no need for surgery.

The technique, unveiled at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, California, this week, places two electrical fields of different frequencies outside the head. The brain tissue where the fields overlap is stimulated, while the tissue under just one field is unaffected because the frequencies are too high. For instance, they may use one field at 10,000 hertz and another at 10,010 hertz. The affected nerve cells are stimulated at 10 hertz – the difference between the two frequencies.

So far the work is at an early stage. Grossman has shown that it works in principle in mice, which can be killed after the treatment to see which neurons were stimulated.

His team has also tested it on nine healthy people as they lay in an fMRI brain scanner; the target region of brain tissue became more active when the stimulation was turned on, he told the conference.

“It’s safer than putting holes in someone’s head,” says Peter Steinmetz, at the Nakamoto Brain Research Institute in Tempe, Arizona. “That’s the beauty of it.”

This sounds very similar to the mood organ from Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?:

'So I left the TV sound off and I sat down at my mood organ and I experimented. And I finally found a setting for despair… So I put it on my schedule for twice a month; I think that's a reasonable amount of time to feel hopeless about everything...' How much time do you set aside each month for specific moods?'

Via NewScientist.

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