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Implants May Improve Therapy For Neurological Disorders

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the a-chipped-brain-is-a-happy-brain dept.

Medicine 36

ericjones12398 writes "Breakthrough new research out of Massachusetts General Hospital shows that the use of magnetic field stimulation from microscopic devices implanted into the brain may be able to boost brain activity and alleviate symptoms of several devastating neurodegenerative conditions. Researchers leveraged the use of magnetic stimulation, which has been used for years to diagnose and treat neurological disorders. However, transcranial magnetic stimulation often generates fields by hand-held coils outside the skull, which ends up activating undesired parts of the brain, and makes delivery specificity to certain parts of the brain difficult."

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36 comments

implants? (-1, Offtopic)

noh8rz5 (2674523) | about 2 years ago | (#40560359)

man it's late... i mixed up the headline of this article with the article about finding the genes for big boobies... if you haven't seen it: http://www.geekologie.com/2012/07/breaking-genes-responsible-for-breast-si.php [geekologie.com]

Yo, this website is great! (-1, Troll)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 years ago | (#40560363)

Slashdort is sort of like the Facebook of the Internet -- all the cool people are here and they love me and I love them and we are all a loving family in CHRIST JEZORZ! Everybodiy read the werbsite "slashdort" all the time and we will all loveeach other in peace and alcohole!!!! FOREVER! I LOVE YOU LAURA!

Neuro-Degenerative Disorders (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#40560365)

A clarification: I am not a doctor

But isn't "Neuro-Degenerative Disorder" imply symptoms that arise from the death of brain cells (for whatever reason) ?

If that's so, how can any implant "stimulates" brain activities _after_ the crucial brain cells have croaked ?

Would appreciate very much of any and all elaboration !!
 

Mostly dead is still partly alive (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 2 years ago | (#40560475)

Brain cells don't necessarily die outright, they may just become less responsive, or even go completely dormant while still being alive. If that's the problem then if you can keep them stimulated enough to respond semi-normally to normal input signals then you may restore much lost function. Depending on the underlying cause it's even possible that by keeping them active you might slow or even reverse the degeneration, much like a physical exercise regime can help slow or reverse muscle degenerating conditions.

Not all brain cells die at once (3, Insightful)

Frans Faase (648933) | about 2 years ago | (#40560763)

With neuro-degenrative disorders (dementia) it is not the case that all brain cells die at once. Even with people who have progressed far, still have brain with living brain cells. The brain cells that are left can form new connections. Maybe the magnetic stimulation can improve the communication between the brain cells that are left. In the past decades several medicines have developed that stimulate the production of certain neurotransmitters with the same effect. However, most of these medicines only work with a few people and the effect is mostly not very dramatic. The problem is that all these things do not cure or even halt the neuro-degenerative process. It might be a breakthrough in the research but it is definitely not a breakthrough in the cure of such disorders. But any method that can elevate the simptoms is nevertheless important because for the suffers of these diseases and their caretakers.

Re:Neuro-Degenerative Disorders (0)

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Re:Neuro-Degenerative Disorders (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about 2 years ago | (#40566741)

The summary is misleading. From the linked article:

Approved applications for DBS include Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, depression, Tourette’s syndrome and even deep comatose patients.

Of those conditions, Parkinson's is the only one that is degenerative. None of the others are.

may (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40560411)

"may" or "may not"
rubbish.

Re:may (1)

Meshach (578918) | about 2 years ago | (#40561025)

"may" or "may not" rubbish.

That is the way medical science works. Nothing is one hundred percent. It is all about probabilities. If by using a certain drug people have a lower chance of having a degenerative neurological condition I think that drug is worth taking.

fir5t post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40560421)

of Jordan Hubbard = 36400 Fre9eBSD states that there

"activating undesired parts of the brain" (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 2 years ago | (#40560437)

Tell me about it. A friend of mine tried TCMS once and kept ranting about "monsters from the id!"

Then again, he was probably just traumatized by the gas explosion or whatever it was that flattened a neighboring city block.

Don't even consider going near an MRI machine (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40560455)

Imagine the induced potential/current in the presence of a massive and rapidly-changing magnetic field.

MRI can have positive effect (4, Interesting)

Frans Faase (648933) | about 2 years ago | (#40560721)

My wife, when in the process of being diagnosed with Alzheimers, reported that her thinking was much clearer after she had got an MRI scan. The effect lasted only half a day. I reported this to her neurologist, who said that it was nonsense. But what I have read here, it looks like that what she reported was real. This was in the fall of 2012. In the mean time she has progressed a lot and I wonder if stimulation would have any benefit now.

Re:MRI can have positive effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40560773)

Hey, check out TMS. Here's Dr. Oz's take: Dr. Oz on TMS [doctoroz.com]

Re:MRI can have positive effect (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 2 years ago | (#40561293)

My wife, when in the process of being diagnosed with Alzheimers...

I just want to say (even though I don't know you) that I'm really sorry to hear that. I wish you all the best, and I hope that her progress continues.

Re:MRI can have positive effect (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 2 years ago | (#40561323)

Which is to say if the progress is positive. Sorry if I didn't read that right. :-(

Re:MRI can have positive effect (2)

Frans Faase (648933) | about 2 years ago | (#40563803)

It's okay. Sadly, with Alzheimer's Disease progress is always negative. There is no cure and also no hope for improvements. Of course, patients varry from day to day, so sometimes you can be fooled in believing that there is progress, but in the long run this is not the case. Alzheimer's Disease is a fatal disease with an average life span of about ten years after it has been diagnosed. My wife was diagnosed based on abnormal protein levels in the brain fluid (through epidural), which at that time, 2006, was still experimental, but is now believed to be one of the most accurate methods available. At that time was 49 years old and thus is a rare case of Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. Most often Alzheimer's Disease is a greater burden for the caretakers (family members) than the patient itself. Although the prognoses is very bad, it does not mean that is no longer can be happy.

Re:MRI can have positive effect (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#40572673)

But what I have read here, it looks like that what she reported was real.

How do you figure. I don't see anything about the use of an MRI machine in this article.

From what I've googled on deep brain stimulation they seem to involve pulses of energy at a frequncy of tens to hundreds of hertz.

The powerful magnet of an MRI is constant - it is not pulsed at all. What is pulsed are radio transmissions tuned to the resonance frequency of hydrogen (most of the time), and some gradient magnetic fields much weaker than the main field. I'm not an expert on MRI, but I'd assume that the gradient pulses are only a few per second, and the high-frequency pulses are also only a few per second for typical uses, and those are tuned way up in the tens to hundreds of MHz range. They also hit the entire brain and not one area specifically.

It is quite possible that something associated with the study caused a change, but that could be anything from the excitement of all the dressing/attention/etc, to fear from sticking your head in an enclosed space, to any number of things. Certainly I can't rule out the MRI itself, but I wouldn't really call the known effects of direct brain stimulation as being equivalent to an MRI.

Again, I'm not an MRI expert, but studied NMR a fair bit in grad school. They are the same basic technology applied in two different ways. NMR experiments tend to be much more complex in terms of pulse sequences, but MRI tends to involve some complex gradients to generate images.

My mind to your mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40560535)

Now I just need to convince people that emotions are a neurological disorder.

boost brain activity (2, Funny)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 2 years ago | (#40560627)

boost brain activity? Of the girls that I know with implants, it seems to have done the opposite.

Re:boost brain activity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40562193)

boost brain activity? Of the girls that I know with implants, it seems to have done the opposite.

Given a limited blood supply, what's more important? Brains or boobs?

BOOBS!

Re:boost brain activity (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#40564921)

Given a limited blood supply, what's more important? Brains or boobs?

BOOBS!

Zombies hereby respectfully beg to differ.

I, for one welcome our nano-lobotomy overlords (1, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#40560685)

and predict that in another decade those of us who don't get the implants will be looking at those poor souls who got em with the feeling we get today when looking at the orbitoclast. No, doctor, if I go insane, please don't put your wires in my brain.

www.vanchuyenhangdimy.com (-1, Offtopic)

lienbien (2677419) | about 2 years ago | (#40561245)

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Re:www.vanchuyenhangdimy.com (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561325)

Nice to meet you, I am Agent Orange.

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40560755)

Magnetics can do wonders for mental health in ways that humanity is only beginning to discover how to use effectivelly. Mental health will be transformed with effective magnetic treatments. The system is barely starting to catch up. TMS treatment for depression was cleared by the FDA in 2008 and is still barely covered by insurance plans. A positive note is that Medicare does cover it now, so humanity is catching up. Anyone with depression, I'd recommend talking to your doctor about TMS.

I worry about the hype of specific technologies. For example the article mentions "hand-held coils outside the skull" it shows a picture of the Neurostar, a TMS device. The coil on the Neurostar is not hand-held during treatment. Similarly Brainsway is a helmet that is also not hand-held (though isn't really available in the US either). They also seem to have a LOT more side effects than the Neurostar people had in their published research.

Either way, this is the direction mental health will take in the future.

Re:Interesting (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561053)

Yeah, I have one of those magnetic bracelets, and it has done miracles to me. I used to be fat, with a tiny, limp penis and constantly drooling. Since I got the bracelet, my drooling stopped, my fat is all gone, my muscles are growing bigger by the day, and I had to buy pants roomier at the crotch to fit my big dick. Girls fall over me left and right. Thanks, magnets!

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40563493)

that's how magnets work!

Amped (2)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 2 years ago | (#40563579)

If you are interested in a decent (IMO) book about this, give "Amped: A Novel" [amazon.com] a read. It is written by Daniel H. Wilson, author of "Robopocalypse: A Novel" [amazon.com] . "Amped: A Novel" revolves around people who have implants in their brains to cure neurological disorders, at least originally. Amplified intelligence occurs as a side effect, creating a schism between "amps" and "reggies", or regular people. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt ensues.

Here's what's happening (2)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 2 years ago | (#40564089)

Magnetic fields can stimulate nerves in the brain, using straightforward mechanisms of action.

Hebbian Theory [wikipedia.org] tells us that neuronal activity induces nerve growth. Nerves which fire at the same time tend to make connections.

If Hebbian theory is correct, then the likely mechanism of action is excess neurotransmitters in the inter-cellular fluid - a slight loss of neurotransmitter in synapses from firing makes its way into the fluid between cells, which acts as a growth stimulator for nearby cells.

(It's easy to imagine an evolutionary path for this - in effect, the cells are recognizing the neurotransmitter as a food source and will grow towards areas of higher density. Modify the food source over time to get a specialized cell that processes specific molecules as a growth signalling mechanism. Anyway...)

Simple experiments indicate that this neural plasticity is quite fast and pliable. Wear glasses which flip the visual image upside down and the brain will rewire itself to compensate in a couple of days. In other words, the brain will completely rewire the ordering of the input visual layer in about three days.

So it's not at all unreasonable to expect that magnetic stimulation would cause increased neuronal activity, or that such activity would enhance neuronal growth. Whether this induces the growth of new neurons or merely an increase of connections is an area for further research. Whether this works on all types of neurons (there are several types, each with a different function and using a different neurotransmitter) is an area for further research.

Furthermore, this is an area of research which could conceivably be carried out at the hobbyist level.

Yes, that's a bold statement and I can back that up. Medical science has largely stagnated for various reasons, and it would appear that good science will increasingly come from the Hobbyist arena [wikipedia.org] rather than peer-reviewed, government-funded studies which cannot be reproduced [slashdot.org] .

Magnetic field stimulation is easily within the capability of an average hacker, is relatively safe, and if you have someone who otherwise cannot be helped by conventional medicine and is aware of the dangers, there's nothing wrong with it.

Previous poster stated that getting an MRI reduced Alzheimers symptoms for half a day. What's the risk/reward equation for someone diagnosed with Alzheimers trying some magnetic stimulation, versus doing nothing?

Anyhow...

Magnetic fields causing increased neuronal growth is entirely consistent with current theory of how the brain works.

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