Brain Pacemakers May Revolutionize Treatment

By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2008 6:45 PM CDT
This undated image provided by the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, shows the X-ray image of a patient with Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) leads implanted.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The precise application of electricity to certain areas of the brain—the same principles a pacemaker uses for the heart—is showing promise for people with an array of illnesses such as Parkinson's, severe depression, epilepsy, and Alzheimer's, the Chicago Tribune reports. The treatment, called deep brain stimulation, remains in the preliminary stages, but its potential grows as researchers develop ever-more detailed maps of the brain and its circuitry.

"I believe this field is where heart pacemaker devices were 25 to 30 years ago,' said a leading researcher at the Cleveland Clinic. "Brain pacemakers are going to have a significant impact on the treatment for a number of neurological and behavioral conditions." The $150,000 procedure has been used most commonly so far to help treat Parkinson's, but early results on other neurological disorders show that its use could greatly expand.