Got a headache? Reach for your favorite pain reliever pill fast… Or, someday you might punch in a code in your hand-held computer and the mind-numbing throbbing would quickly fade away.
Neurosurgeons have long tried techniques to alter the function of spinal cord and brain circuitry. These have been as invasive as cutting tissue and removing small sections of the brain. Patients have ranged from those having severe pain to others with psychiatric conditions (think about what happened to Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest“).
Now, new techniques are being developed to directly apply a little stimulation from an electrode to a section of the brain handling motor control. Initial attempts are resulting in unexpected and interesting effects of reducing chronic nerve pain and inducing other potentially therapeutic activity elsewhere in the brain.
For the potentially more controversial surgeries to “fix” patients with severe psychiatric conditions who don’t respond to medication or other therapies, doctors hope that strategically-placed electrodes may be an effective treatment to bring some semblance of normalcy back into these patients’ lives.