Friday, July 01, 2005

Brain Stimulation

Since Scientologists would have you believe that electrical stimulation of the brain will turn you into nothing more than a vegetable, I want to share with you an electrical therapy for movement disorders, including Parkinson's disease, holding great promise for treating a variety of neurological disorders.

It's called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). The Cleveland Clinic is one of the leading centers for this treatment, and I think their site explains it well (here also). Although DBS is mainly being employed to treat Parkinson's Disease, it most likely will be used to treat other motor disturbances. Additionally, there is also some evidence that DBS may be useful in treating intractable depression.

Using electrical stimulation for treating neurological diseases is haunted by the use of maximal-electroshock during psychiatry's "dark ages". We now know that there are better methods for eliciting electrical stimulation's beneficial effects, and we are trying to move forward with some of these therapies. It is difficult, however, because of the stigma associated with "shocking" patients.

Electrical stimulation changes the electrical properties of your nerve cells without adding potentially-toxic drugs and associated-drug metabolites into your system (the reason for drugs' side effects). Drugs are used to change the electrical properties of your brain just like direct-electrical stimulation, but there is no way for a drug to have a "pure" effect.

Some things that you may not know about electrical brain stimulation:

Do you know that minimal, electroconvulsive seizures (ECS) are neuroprotective? ECS may be one way to treat Alzheimer's Disease, and in animals, pretreatment with ECS protects neurons from being killed by subsequent seizures and ischemia/stroke. Modern ECS is not the same as the historically-used electroshock therapy (even though it's hard for people to understand this for some reason).

Do you know that ECS is currently the only way to alleviate some forms of severe depression? In fact, lithium and ECS alter many of the same biochemical pathways, yet ECS does not have the debilitating side effects associated with lithium use. The main side effect of ECS is temporary memory loss (similar to the temporary memory loss associated with having temporal lobe seizures).

Do you know that deep brain stimulation works when L-DOPA fails? You can watch the video here. Most Parkinson's drugs stop working over time--DBS may be one way to extend treatment.

We all have to make a concerted effort to realize that the ills of psychiatry's past should not cloud our judgment when evaluating modern treatments. It's important to remember history so that we do not repeat our mistakes, but we should not let our minds be controlled by fear and stigma.

4 Comments:

At 12:41 PM, Blogger trisha said...

I would do anything, ANYTHING, for decreased apathy.

Sign me up.

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

I don't think they will let me experiment on you. Apparently, they have laws against those types of things...

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger trisha said...

Yes, but the memory loss will cover your tracks. I can't tell on you if I can't remember who you are.

Two areas of concern:

1. Device may interfere with antitheft devices, refrigerator door magnets.
(People in this part of the country love them some refrigerator magnets and them there "Support Our Troops car magnets.)

2. ...serious and permanent complication such as paralysis, changes in thinking, memory and personality, seizures, and infection.
(I am concerned my personality won't change.)

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger : Joseph j7uy5 said...

ECS also causes neuronal stem cells to migrate to the hippocampus, at least in rats. That might be part of the therapeutic effect.

There is another form of brain stimulation: repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) that induces a current in a small part of the brain, using a strong but focused magnetic field. It does not induce seizures, but appears to hold promise for having the same kind of effectiveness as ECS.

Science marches on; Scientology merely stagnates.

 

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