The human brain
is squishy; itís wrinkled; itís mysterious. Itís also more electrical
than you may realize. All over your body, cells use electricity
to communicate and to stimulate muscles, but the brain takes this
to another level. If the brain was a battery, and you could tap
all the electricity the neurons are generating, youíd have enough
power to turn on a flashlight.
are finding new ways to use the electrical properties of the brain
to treat diseases and injuries. Electricity actually has a long
history in medicine, dating back at least as far as the ancient
Romans. They used a jolt of electricity, from an electrical ray,
to treat gout. Electro-shock therapy got a bad name back in the
1960ís. But there's renewed interest in using electricity and high-powered
magnets to treat brain diseases. One area where it has gained acceptance
is Parkinson's Disease, and another is severe depression. This week,
KPLU's Keith Seinfeld takes
a close-up look at electricity in the brain.
entire series will re-broadcast on January 13th at 7:25 and
here to Podcast the entire series
Dr. Peter Nora
is opening up the skull of Parkinson's patient John S., during DBS
one: Deep brain stimulation (DBS), where electrodes
are permanently implanted in the brain to emit a constant dose of
low voltage electricity. It helps make an over-active area of the
brain quiet down. The technology is nicknamed a ďpacemaker for the
brain.Ē We follow a Seattle man before, during and after his surgery.
Surgeons say the same technology holds promise for treating conditions
as diverse as depression and obesity.
Dr. Peter Nora
and nurse Peggy Shortt prepare to insert an electrode into surgery
patient John S.
two: Deep brain stimulation, continued. Johnís story continues
in the operating room, and after his surgery.
Seinfeld tests how it feels to sit in the chair used for TMS at Harborview
three: Magnetic stimulation (TMS), where pulses from
a high-powered magnet create a tiny burst of electricity inside
the brain Ė without any surgery. Currently, itís being tested as
an alternative to electroshock therapy, to treat major depression.
We meet two patients who tell what a blessing it is to be free from
their medications, and a Seattle researcher who is evaluating the
Morpheus is a
knee-high robot in the laboratory of Rajesh Rao. Morhpeus takes orders
via brain-waves from a human sitting nearby
four: Brain-computer interface (BCI), where electrical
wires connect the brain to outside devices, such as a computer or
an artificial limb. These devices may usher in the era of bionics
and science fiction. They're all years from being widely available
to the public, but farther along than you might imagine. In Seattle,
researchers are testing implants that detect electrical brain signals
and transmit to an outside device. The technologies hold hope for
paralytics and amputees, to allow communication or movement.