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Brain Electrodes Help Injured Man To Speak Again

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the inside-out dept.

Science 88

An anonymous reader writes "A man beaten and left for dead has recovered the power of speech thanks to the use of electrodes to stimulate brain activity. 'Experts called the results encouraging but cautioned that the experimental treatment must be tried in more patients before its value can be assessed. The researchers are already proceeding with a larger study. Before the electrodes were implanted, the man was in what doctors call a "minimally conscious state." That means he showed only occasional awareness of himself and his environment. In a coma or vegetative state, by contrast, patients show no outward signs of awareness.'"

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Helping cripples is good (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119191)

But I still think we should sterilzise them. Otherwise we're weakening the genome. They'd just die in the wild anyway.

Re:Helping cripples is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119219)

Actually, no.

Not that you're comment deserves a response, but it appears you don't understand the difference between someone with a birth defect and someone injured later. The results of a beating have nothing to do with genetics, but you'll probably learn about that when you get to high school and take biology.

Re:Helping cripples is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119285)

Not that you're comment deserves a response, but it appears you don't understand the difference between someone with a birth defect and someone injured later.

Actually, science has yet to prove definitively that there is no change to the genome for someone who goes through life and has events happen to them as compared to someone who is born like it. You just never know, and I don't think you can be too careful.

Re:Helping cripples is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119369)

Sorry, but no. Science doesn't have to prove that it doesn't. That's impossible.

The burden of proof is on you, meaning that you have to prove that it does. So since you can't, you lose.

Good day.

Re:Helping cripples is good (1)

badspyro (920162) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119981)

Actualy, DNA does mutate through the life of a person. Ever herd of cancer?

Re:Helping cripples is good (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20120457)

Ever herd of buffalo?

Re:Helping cripples is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20120667)

Ever herd of cancer?

Is that anything like a flock of hepatitis C?

Re:Helping cripples is good (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20120817)

Actualy, DNA does mutate through the life of a person. Ever herd of cancer?


Mutations in DNA are not responsible for cancer. Cancer is the result of the cellular machinery that regulates mitosis going wonky. The best hypothesis that I have heard is that the telomeres that regulate the number of times a cell can replicate its DNA lose count or go into an endless loop. The DNA itself in a cancerous cell may or not be mutated from the original DNA of the organism, it is not related to the cancer itself. A cell with DNA identical to the original zygote of the organism may still go cancerous.

My own personal theory is that there is no cure for cancer and there never will be. Cancer is defined as uncontrolled growth, which is pretty damn close to a perfect definition of life itself. The ability to heal - regeneration of tissues like skin epidermis, stomach epithelial cells, and many other regenerative tissues in the body are constantly walking the fine line on the edge of cancer. In my opinion a cure for cancer is guaranteed death, I prefer the ability to heal and digest food with the risk of cancer that must come with these abilities.

P.S. The strongest carcinogen known to man is estrogen. Seriously. All anthropogenic contaminants that are carcinogenic are xenoestrogenic in their biological activity. This is consistent with my theory that cancer is an inevitable side effect of life and in fact integral to the machinery of life itself.

Re:Helping cripples is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119377)

You're right. We should snuff you out now so that the stupid gene doesn't pass any further.

Know what I find funny? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119621)

Moderation on /. sterilizes the memetic existence of trolls. Otherwise we'd weaken an otherwise good conversation on a topic. If you trolls were left to your own devices you'd die in the memetic wilderness. In a highly adapatative environment, where humans thrive on grand ideas, trolls cannot survive. Much of humanity will move on to greater things and grand vistas of reality ... but you ... you and your trolling ilk will continue being the dregs of humanities memetic existence.

Re:Helping cripples is good (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119839)

Somehow, I don't see you flourishing and reproducing rampantly in the wild either.

So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors? (0, Flamebait)

rebeka thomas (673264) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119293)

So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors? When will they be tried for murder now it's known we can give these people a life? When will her ex husband be executed for his crimes?

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (-1, Troll)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119329)

He should be executed for being an asshole.

Basically, he pulled the plug on her while he's out knocking up some other chick. Meanwhile, her parents were willing to pay for the life support on their own nickle. But no, her ex-husband gets legal athority over her own flesh and blood parents. How fucked up is that?!!

Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (-1, Offtopic)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120473)

This shouldnt be a troll.

If someone is brain dead and nothing, then it doesnt matter, they are zippo , but ultimately, a person by marriage
is at most 25% as important as genetic parents.

Is it possible to form a corporation between your self and parents to give them more rights than your partner?

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (2, Insightful)

Charles W Griswold (848651) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120589)

This shouldnt be a troll.

If someone is brain dead and nothing, then it doesnt matter, they are zippo , but ultimately, a person by marriage
is at most 25% as important as genetic parents.

Is it possible to form a corporation between your self and parents to give them more rights than your partner?

Well said. I was appalled when I heard that her ex had the power to end her life. It's tragic.

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 7 years ago | (#20121889)

I have some overly religious relatives and should I ever be in the condition Schiavo was in, I am very very very glad that she will have more power concerning my interests and wishes than they. What is tragic here is the conjunction of extreme religious beliefs and medical technology. It wasn't so long ago that someone like Schiavo wouldn't have been able to hang on for years and years. Now we can keep a heart beating long after any reason for it to beat is gone. If I have (practically) no brain, I don't want food and an education taken from my son and all assets from my wife to keep my shell of body warm for years and years.

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20131851)

Prove that she had "practically no brain". Last week, we saw the story of the Frenchman with EXACTLY the same brain scan who was an active member of society- a father of two and a bureaucrat (ok, jokes aside, we heard them all last week, but bureaucrats are necessary to modern society). This week, we hear about a cortical stimulator which can allow a person with serious brain injuries to talk. What will we hear about next week that will make "practically no brain" irrelevant to the discussion?

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 7 years ago | (#20136095)

All Schiavo had left were lower brain structures that regulate autonomous functions. The autopsy showed that her cortex was gone. This guy had interludes of consciousness even without the stimulator. It isn't even remotely the same thing. There are degrees of "serious brain injury". If I were like the guy in the story then there is legitimate reason for hope. On the other hand, if the best thing I can look forward too after years of stimulation and therapy is the intellect of end stage Alzheimer's patient then forget it. That is a "Gift Of Life" I want no truck with. Note full well that I'm not dictating the wishes of others; if others want to cling to any shadow of life no matter how lacking in thought or dignity then that is their right with no argument from me. I'm making clear what my wishes are. And I believe that my wishes as I am now fully possessed of my faculties is what should hold sway if the physical basis of them is destroyed or mostly destroyed. I am making damn sure that those family members who would disagree with me on this are explicitly named as having no authority should I lose the ability to decide for myself.

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20136237)

On the other hand, if the best thing I can look forward too after years of stimulation and therapy is the intellect of end stage Alzheimer's patient then forget it.

Where I find value even in such a life- I spent a year audiotaping my grandmother as she descended through the last stages of Alzheimer's. It's my fear that you have been influenced by bigots- bigots who are no different than the Eugenicists [wikipedia.org] and anti-disability [wikipedia.org] movements of the past.

I understand the fear- the fear of costing your family "more than you are worth", the fear of dependence on other human beings. But those are false fears- and even somebody with the intellect of a bureaucrat [theregister.co.uk] can provide service to humanity.

Now granted- it took the Frenchman 45 years to get there....

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 7 years ago | (#20136853)

There's bigotry and then there is bigotry. If you were faced with a loved one with on-record wishes stated as similar to mine then what is going to happen? If it is that person's consentful wishes that are honored regardless of your own feelings and convictions then we have no real argument. It comes to down to personal respect and dignity. I could face losing limbs and maybe even sight but the thought of being forced to live with no mind or a highly damaged mind is repugnant to me. Being used as a political football the way Schiavo was disgusts me to the core; it wasn't anybody else's business. It should have been private between all the family members and the doctors. IMHO The South Park episode on the subject nailed it exactly. "If I'm ever in a vegetative state, please don't show me on television."

Yes, I know the "sanctity of life" crowd has unusual corner cases they like to trot out when this sort of thing comes up. Your Frenchman and this fellow who responded well to a pacemaker in his brain aren't what you can usually expect if the cortex and especially the frontal lobes take a good hard scrambling. Most who wind up in that state aren't even going to wake up much less wake up with any sort of consciousness. I believe people have a right to decide for themselves what constitutes "quality of life". We obviously have different ideas about that. That is OK. What is not OK is disrespecting those decisions.

BTW. You're quite wide of the mark imputing sympathy with eugenicists and forced euthanasia to me. My sympathies are for self-determination or even termination for that matter; if anything is truly yours then it is surely your life and body. I know personally what it is to have and recover from a damaged intellect (or a damaged brain if you must be pedantic). I've also watched some of the strongest and smartest people I ever knew taken away from the family piece by piece and it was hell for pretty much everybody. I also have personal and extensive experience with what goes on in nursing homes. It just isn't for me; others are quite welcome to it as I've said before. Understand that your positive experiences aren't everybody else's. There is another side to this. Don't presume to tell me what is false and what isn't.

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20136319)

Missed something. You made this specific point:

All Schiavo had left were lower brain structures that regulate autonomous functions. The autopsy showed that her cortex was gone.

The MRI shows that This Guy's cortex [theregister.co.uk] is also gone. He's even missing those lower brain structures that regulate autonomous functions. Instead, he's got a thin layer of brain tissue on the OUTSIDE of his brain that does it all- and allows him to be a father and a bureaucrat. Of course- it took him 45 years to get there.....

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 7 years ago | (#20125503)

He wasn't her ex at the time. Also, as legally defined by many societies, the ring takes precedent over blood ties. If you don't agree with that, get a living will before you get your marriage license. Both are legal documents, and this is purely a matter of law. Many people have found more fulfillment in their own nuclear families through marriage than they had through their blood relatives... so it can go either way. There is nothing "tragic" about it.

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

Charles W Griswold (848651) | more than 7 years ago | (#20126475)

He wasn't her ex at the time. Also, as legally defined by many societies, the ring takes precedent over blood ties. If you don't agree with that, get a living will before you get your marriage license. Both are legal documents, and this is purely a matter of law. Many people have found more fulfillment in their own nuclear families through marriage than they had through their blood relatives... so it can go either way. There is nothing "tragic" about it.
Regardless, I was still quite disturbed by the whole thing.

Re:Sorry, but flesh is better than a ring. (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 7 years ago | (#20126741)

This shouldn't be a troll.

He's advocating execution for a routine act, and then uses character assassination to justify it. He might not be deliberately trolling, but the mods are understandable.

If someone is brain dead and nothing, then it doesn't matter, they are zippo, but ultimately, a person by marriage is at most 25% as important as genetic parents. Is it possible to form a corporation between your self and parents to give them more rights than your partner?

If you don't have a living will, the courts have to make a guess as to what you would want, and precedent says that spouses at treated as next-of-kin. This is how inheritance works, and any other legal situation where someone else must make decisions in your stead. For most of us, the person we married is someone we've chosen to have a great deal of influence over our lives (as opposed to parents, whom we don't choose), and they have spent more time with us recently. The best part is that if you don't like it, you can set things up any way you like! Give uncle Bill your power of attorney, and have all your assets given to the salvation army. But one situation that you didn't like the outcome of isn't enough to overrule hundreds of years of precedent.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20123495)

He should have moved her to Nevada where prostitution is legal and put her to work to help pay her bills.

Terri Schiavo wouldn't have cared. Sure, the old Terri Schiavo would put the ixnay on that, but Terri Schiavo 2000 would be a-okay.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (3, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119363)

No.

In Schiavo's case, the autopsy was conclusive. Her brain was horribly atrophied; there was little left beyond the brain stem, which only provides the bare minimum life support functions. Parts of her cerebrum had literally turned to mush. No medical treatment, up to and including science fiction ideas like tissue regeneration, could have properly revived her - there was nothing left of her prior self, in terms of the important stuff like memory, or identity.

At best, some techno-magical resurrection, should such a thing be possible one day, could have left her with an blank infant's mind in an already old body, and bluntly, that sounds every bit like a fate worse than death to me.

Really, the only reason why everyone remembers Terri (and not the many other vegetables whose relatives face the difficult choice of either holding out hope indefinitely or pulling the plug) is that her case got political. Medically, she was not out of the ordinary, and it was pretty clear long before the case ever made it to the public eye that she wasn't coming back. People who've lost most of their brain aren't expected to recover, and since their prognosis worsens over time (due to atrophy), there is little chance of medical science yielding some miracle cure that could help them.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (2, Interesting)

rebeka thomas (673264) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119389)

No medical treatment, up to and including science fiction ideas like tissue regeneration, could have properly revived her

And until recently, that's what "medicine" and "science" thought was the case with the young man in the story.

But now he's up and talking.

Think about it.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119473)

No medical treatment, up to and including science fiction ideas like tissue regeneration, could have properly revived her

And until recently, that's what "medicine" and "science" thought was the case with the young man in the story.

But now he's up and talking.

Think about it.

Augmenting a single damaged center of the brain is difficult with the technology of today but not a long-term impossibility.

Completely reconstructing a person's memories and personality when their brain has turned into slurry is not possible without time travel.

Which is pretty much exactly what the parent poster said.

-:sigma.SB

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (4, Funny)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119773)

I can confirm this experimentally. Inspired by this development, I implanted electrodes into a bowl of tomato soup. No amount of deep electrical stimulation could bring the soup into anything we could recognize as consciousness, nor was its ability to communicate improved.

Possibly the failure of the deep electrical stimulation to elicit the desired response has something to do with the vegetative state of the tomatoes that were used to make the soup. With this in mind, I am going to be conducting further experiments using a crab bisque.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119849)

You fool! This is Slashdot, full of sci fi geeks who should know better than to do crazy things like experiment on tomato soup! Don't go crying to the DMCA waving government when your tomato soup is animated and eats your family!

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (2, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20122815)

You're running a big risk there. If you stare into a bisque long enough the bisque stares back at you.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20125819)

Bravo! I friended you. I imagined a bowl of soup with two eyestalks breaking the surface.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (3, Insightful)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119483)

You're letting your religious beliefs and emotional need to believe something, whether it's true or not, get in the way of the facts. I remember a discussion once about sf spaceships and how scientists have said that it is not possible to go faster than light speed and someone said, "Yeah, but they kept saying it wasn't possible to go faster than sound." The two statements are entirely unrelated. There wasn't "proof" about faster than sound travel. As far was what science can and cannot do, her memories, her personality, everything that made her who she was was lost. Without that, she could never be who she was. That is not an issue of "until recently they thought..." reasoning.

You might want to read up on logic and reasoning and how they are used in debate and discussion because you are making arguments without any basis other than your own beliefs. You are basing your comments on what you want and not on facts or reason.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119913)

Well, said, doktor Mengele. Sieg Heil!

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (3, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119495)

Actually, that is not the case. If you'll read the article, you'll see that the patient could in fact communicate, albeit in a limited way, before the treatment. He was crippled, but his mind was still there.

If you want an analogy, think of a human being as a computer. This guy, in TFA, had a broken sound card - they fixed it. Terri Schiavo had a broken hard drive - one that wasn't just damaged, but was in fact melted. Assuming the damage could have been repaired, what of the data lost? It's not like we had a backup copy of her mind, her memories, or the other aspects of her identity.

There are bound to be cases where we can argue till the cows come home how much of the mind is left. Hers wasn't one of them. Where the forebrain should have been, there was cerebrospinal fluid. There was nothing left. Her case does not compare with the case in TFA.

Now, one day we may be able to repair that kind of damage. But unless we also develop a method for backing up our minds, the way we back up data on a computer, then such a miracle treatment will not restore the patient to who they were.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119785)

I prefer car analogies. In the current case, the patient had a dead battery and needed a jump. In the Schiavo case, the engine had seized.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 7 years ago | (#20123741)

It's not like we had a backup copy of her mind, her memories, or the other aspects of her identity.

If only we could invent a special computer device [wikipedia.org] which allows sensations and higher brain functions to be scanned directly from the brain, recorded, and played back...

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#20123825)

I think in Terri's case everything except BIOS was gone :/

[rant]
It's a sad state when families become politicized such as hers. I understand there was a disagreement, but I don't feel it should have been given the breath and depth of media attention it got. Now, had it been a "special report" type of thing and not involved the 5 o'clock news *every* day that may have been appropriate, but as it turned out no one won, everyone thinks ill of one side of the family or the other, and as a collective whole, we were a bit more depressed than normal.
[/rant]
sorry 'bout that. I'll cork it now (but it still felt good to blow off that steam).

-nB

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 7 years ago | (#20133387)

Just replace her brain with a simple electronic one programmed so that nobody could tell the difference.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20131907)

There are bound to be cases where we can argue till the cows come home how much of the mind is left. Hers wasn't one of them. Where the forebrain should have been, there was cerebrospinal fluid. There was nothing left. Her case does not compare with the case in TFA.

Correct, her case more closely mirrors This article from last week [slashdot.org] where a man with a 75 IQ was discovered whose ENTIRE brain was cerebrospinal fluid- except for a thin skin on the surface. Of course, he was given 45 years to recover from his initial injury (in childhood, he was a victim of hydrocephalus, and a malfunctioning shunt was likely the cause of his injury), and Terry was given what, 15 years?

Assuming the damage could have been repaired, what of the data lost? It's not like we had a backup copy of her mind, her memories, or the other aspects of her identity.

This however, is true. But who are you to say that her new mind, her new memories, her new identity, could not have accomplished something new? Have you left proof behind and become a soothsayer?

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (2, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119503)

"And until recently, that's what "medicine" and "science" thought was the case with the young man in the story. "

No, and why is it that many people automatically assume that "anything is possible" given enough time. People in that type of coma are known to wake up after months, even years, but medicine has not found much in the way of a reliable way to wake them up. He had "moments" where he was consious of his surroundings so the sugreons knew he was capable of responding when they tickled the right neurons. If the nerons are dead from lack of blood/oxygen, nothing short of resurection technology will bring them back and as the GP pointed out this would probably mean the patients "life" would start from scratch.

Besides if "medicine" and "science" thought it was impossible then why did they bother trying it out on this guy?

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (2, Insightful)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119569)

And until recently, that's what "medicine" and "science" thought was the case with the young man in the story.

But now he's up and talking.

Think about it.


Should we then freeze dry everyone that dies. you know just in case?

I've had 2 friend that have been in a coma. 1 was thought to have been brain dead and fortunately the doctors were wrong and her mother screaming bloody murder when they pulled her off the respirator (miscommunication due to a language barrier) was the right choice. The choice is there for the families. It's easier in some situation then others. But your statement is bordering on the ridiculous. Think about it? We have to work with the information we have now. Perhaps one day they will have a cure for 47 deep stab wounds. Perhaps not. Perhaps he's a vegetable perhaps not. But we can't work with what might be possible in the future.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

Stefanwulf (1032430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20121261)

And until recently, that's what "medicine" and "science" thought was the case with the young man in the story.


Actually, practitioners of "medicine" thought that if they used "science", they might help the young man. Today he's up and talking solely because of science applied as medicine, not in spite of it.

You should think a bit about the difference between a poor prognosis and a mathematical impossibility. His brain was pretty much still there, just broken, the chances of our figuring out how to fix it within his lifetime were slim, but we overcame those odds with at least a partial fix. It didn't require any magic, or wondrous new discoveries about the nature of the universe, and the fix works in accordance with the way we understood the brain, even before this man's case.

A brain which has been pulped has lost pretty much all its information. Reliable regeneration of information when it has been completely destroyed is more of a mathematical impossibility, and that is where you are facing a proven fact rather than an estimated chance. Barring a wondrous new discovery that gives us very detailed information regarding the physical structure of the brain prior to the damage, pulped brains _cannot_ be restored to their previous state.

You can choose to disregard the validity of the formal proofs, or the information given to us by humanity's medical experience, but if you do so you deprive yourself of the predictive framework which allows for advances like the one in TFA. And that leaves you attempting to cure him by blind trial and error, which I'm betting both him and his family are glad his doctors _didn't_ do.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (2, Informative)

jbengt (874751) | more than 7 years ago | (#20123323)

No, actually according to TFA, this technique has been tried with varying success before, and "He noted that a similar treatment did not help Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a vegetative state whose care triggered national controversy before her death in 2005. That's the typical outcome for electrical brain stimulation in vegetative states, he said."

Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegative state, from which there is virtually no hope of recovering if it persists for a year or two. The subject of TFA was in a minimally concious state, from which varying degrees of spontaneous recovery is not unknown (though eventual death before any recovery is not uncommon either).

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 7 years ago | (#20126269)

Um, No. You need to go back and read TFA. The initial prognosis was very poor, however: he still a had a brain. A somewhat damaged and not completely functional brain, but a brain nonetheless. Terri Shiavo had a brain stem (sufficient for controlling heart rate and respiration, and that is all) and a big atrophied pile of goo. Note the difference. Prior to the treatment, this guy had short periods of true awareness and lucidity, including speech. Now, after treatment, he's getting better. Terri Shiavo, after years of intensive therapy, medical care, and experimental treatment never demonstrated so much as the merest flicker. Her behavior indicated she was brain dead, the X-rays indicated that she was brain dead, because her brain was gone, and the autopsy confirmed yet again that she had been brain dead for a long time.

There is a world of difference from helping someone who's brain works intermittently, and rebuilding someone who's brain has been reduced to a pool of snot.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (4, Informative)

qbwiz (87077) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119367)

This means absolutely nothing for Terry Schiavo, as they tried this technique (or at least one very similar to it) and it didn't work.

He noted that a similar treatment did not help Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a vegetative state whose care triggered national controversy before her death in 2005. That's the typical outcome for electrical brain stimulation in vegetative states, he said.


Please read the article next time.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

uolamer (957159) | more than 7 years ago | (#20122221)

They also tried the whole no food thing for a few weeks. That didnt seem to work either. I rather my brain be shocked than starve for 2 weeks.. Even mass murderers in the US get a lethal combo of drugs to make it 'instant'.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119415)

Wouldn't it be nice if life were really so simple things could be put in such simple and innocent terms?

Get over it.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120403)

The article stated that they tried this treatment on Schiavo but with no effect.

Re:So what's this mean for Terri Schiavo's doctors (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20136693)

I think a better piece of evidence is the story two weeks ago in The Register, a rehash of the story in New Scientist, that given 45 years you can have a Fully functional human being with no cerebral cortex [slashdot.org] .

Obligatory Reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119295)

So they put electrodes in the brain to simulate it. Does that mean that after a while the brain needs constant stimulation and eventually the stimulation is no longer effective and the patient ends up stabbed with a potato peeler and dead?

Re:Obligatory Reference (2, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119451)

A man beaten and left for dead

Wait, I'm confused. Are we talking about an average Microsoft customer, or a mugging victim? (possibly one and the same)

Re:Obligatory Reference (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119583)

Wait, I'm confused. Are we talking about an average Microsoft customer, or a mugging victim? (possibly one and the same)

Thats easy to tell. Notice the chair marks on his forehead. It's Balmer for sure.

Other possible applications of this tech? (3, Interesting)

Yold (473518) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119305)

I think that within my lifetime (21 yrs old), medical advancements will transcend what is historically possible with medicine. If not for this experiment, a doctor would have told this guy's parents to read-up on making their house handicapped accessable, and learning about strategies for caring for the tramatically brain-injured.
    Medicine is whack. 90% of the time (admittedly bullshit statistic) doctors literally put band-aids on patients, tell them that life is painful, and send them on their way. I used to process medical documents into an EMR system, and although I am not medically trained, the most common solutions to back-pain seemed to be life-style changes, dope (perscription opiates), and invasive (life-threatening) surgery.
    I have often wondered if, in the future, it will be possible to get a brain-implant that shuts off offending portions of the CNS. Instead of adjusting the body to deal with mental anguish (pain), why not adjust the body. I'm hoping by the time I need back-surgery for the 2 broken disc that are giving me pain already, it is going to be brain-surgery instead.

Any medical professionals care to share the feasability of brain-implants as a way of treating pain or other conditions not limited to the CNS, as TFA suggests the tech's use is for?

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (1)

Yold (473518) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119313)

"why not adjust the body"

    Excuse me

        why not adjust the brain?

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119407)

In most cases, pain is there for a reason. If you're back hurts, you probably did something wrong with your body- lifted something the wrong way, twisted the wrong way, etc. Pain is your bodies way of saying "don't do that". So yes, most of the time the correct answer is to change your life style- stop doing things that harm your body. Its ironic that you complain about doctors using band-aid treatments, then think that a technique to mask the pain from your brain while continuing to deteriorate your body is a *good* idea. In reality its about the worst thing you could do- you'll continue to fuck up your back, without nay feedback of how badly you're doing so. The end result will be you in a wheelchair.

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20120041)

My brain hurts! Time to...

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (1)

peterkickit (691869) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120957)

In many cases, the pain was created by actual trauma, but remains long after the trauma is gone. Jerry Lewis estimates that he did 19,000 pratfalls during his career playing a bumbling fool (basically the same act as the "Jackass" guys do now, without the life-threatening setups, drug use, or foul language). Jerry's act left him with 37 years of excruciating pain, long after the pratfalls had ended. Even after his back had healed from all of its injuries, the pain remained, to the point that he had major depression and was suicidal. Doctors had him on pain-killer cocktails and had tried various surgeries, but nothing worked to reduce the chronic pain. Finally, his doctor recommended electrodes (the same system in this brain implant story) be implanted in his spine. He is now totally free of pain. Sometimes, a lifestyle change is not enough. It is estimated that 100,000 people suffer from chronic pain not related to recent trauma.

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (2, Insightful)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 7 years ago | (#20121251)

Well, in the "sore back" example, often the initial problem with the patient is that there is not enough muscle mass around the spine to cope with daily living. The solution to that IS NOT less daily living. The solution is "muscle up your back a bit, moron". Which involves exercise and some pain.

IN ADDITION, there are very well documented scientifically done papers that strongly indicated that "my back hurts" is best cured by regular activity with pain management. Lying in bed prolongs the problem, doing extra, prolongs the problem. Doing normal stuff, cuts the recovery by something like 50%.

In other words, the exact opposite of what you are advocating.

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20123521)

In most cases, people don't give a shit about pain. People complain about pain in the cases where it really isn't for a reason. The most minor of these is probably headaches and stubbed toes, and it goes all the way up to chronic pain disorders where your entire body is hurting but otherwise perfectly healthy.

We're an intelligent species, we don't need pain that lasts way after the event to discourage us from doing whatever precipitated us. We know what causes headaches is bad, we know stubbing toes is bad, we still do them. There's no reason for those pains, and there's no reason for the kind of chronic back pain that the parent is complaining about.

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (1)

mechapants (1059980) | more than 7 years ago | (#20127685)

As someone who has rhumatoid arthritis and spends every minute of every day in pain, I would welcome such a device. There is no cure for RA and I'm already taking the current available treatments. Something like this would benifit many people in similar situations where there is nothing you can do except "live with it". I'd much rather be pain free and deal with the other issues with RA then deal with both and I'm more then sure there are lots of other people that would fully agree.

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20130489)

I bet you love that constant Deny/Allow nagging in Vista.

What were his ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119411)

first words upon receiving the electrical stimulation?

"OMG, the pain!!! Quit shocking me!"

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119425)

Sticking electrodes in your brain is far more is invasive and life threatening than back surgery. Pain is a good thing, people that lose sensation in limbs often end up losing those limbs.

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (1)

zorbid (634449) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120237)

Surgery isn't needed to tune the CNS. This study shows that fMRI feedback allows to modulate the pain perception [pnas.org] . People (chronic pain pain patients and control subjects) were able to learn to voluntarily deactivate the brain region that links pain perception and emotion, thereby reducing their subjecive painful experience.

BTW, although acute pain is indeed a useful signal, the nervous system sometimes goes awry and becomes permanently sensitzed to pain or even sometimes generates pain. In these chronic pain conditions, the pain becomes the disease, and treating it is a good solution.

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 7 years ago | (#20158677)

I agree, but I'd try yoga, physiotherapy and other alternatives long before I'd try these freaky procedures, including voluntary deactivation of brain centres. That can't be good for the patient, however you spin it.

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#20123655)

Any medical professionals care to share the feasability of brain-implants as a way of treating pain or other conditions not limited to the CNS, as TFA suggests the tech's use is for?
IINADoctor, but rather I am a patient. I suffer from a condition called essential tremor. In a nutshell it is a kinetic based tremor, where the more precise I attempt to position my hands the more shaky I get (how's that for sucky). Parkinson's, on the other hand, is nearly the opposite, where tremors occur at rest.

Now, to the point. I can be given an implant into the hypo-thalamus(sp?) that when the electrode is active the tremors stop. Or I can be given ablation (burn away part of the thalamus) and the tremors go away forever. In either case they can only treat one half of my body as the success rates are pretty good. If they try to treat both sides of the body there is a likelihood (> 50%) that I will lose the power of speech.

Currently I've opted for drug therapy (propranolol or alcohol, depending on the environmental conditions. Propranolol works slower, less completely, and has worse side effects, but is safer and usable while driving, at work, etc.)

Cheers,
-nB

Re:Other possible applications of this tech? (1)

ClownSoup (1138593) | more than 7 years ago | (#20129167)

The body needs pain. It assists with the healing process.

Oh (1)

jjacksonRIAB (1050352) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119323)

"Before the electrodes were implanted, the man was in what doctors call a minimally conscious state." I've done a lot of things that woke up persons who were unconcious, but I never thought of electrodes. Thanks for the tip!

Re:Oh (1)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119331)

I've done a lot of things that woke up persons who were unconcious, but I never thought of electrodes. Thanks for the tip!


I smell and Darwin Award in the making.

Re:Oh (1)

jjacksonRIAB (1050352) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119383)

Well fate better hurry the fuck up and stop gaming me with the near misses ;-)

Well, we've proven... (3, Funny)

mdenham (747985) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119427)

...that it's possible to get a man to start speaking by implanting electrodes.

Now can we develop a cell phone that will implant the electrodes on its own, to get people to stop talking?

(-1, Offtopic) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119493)

That means he showed only occasional awareness of himself and his environment.

omg liek GW Bush lolamirite?

But how does one define, let alone perform a test for, self-awareness? If it's ability to respond to internal changes, my computer is self-aware.

Re:(-1, Offtopic) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20119537)

Your computer is self-aware when it can launch a nuclear strike against humanity.

Re:(-1, Offtopic) (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119595)

Does launching one in Starcraft count? Or does it have to be playing Global Thermonuclear War?

Re:(+2, Haiku) (1)

mdenham (747985) | more than 7 years ago | (#20122779)

Thermonuclear War
Shows no promise for gameplay
Give me Tic-Tac-Toe

electrodes to the brain (1)

Chief Wongoller (1081431) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119709)

So "A man beaten and left for dead has recovered the power of speech thanks to the use of electrodes to stimulate brain activity." Nothing new here, Doctor Frankenstein pioneered this technology long ago.Of course the monstor was a parody of human life. And that's the point; this is scientific expermentation playing on the emotions of the patients and their relatives, who quite often are more concerned with their inability to let go rather than the patient's real welfare. If we are honest with ourselves, how many of us would not rather be dead if we were unfortunate to be such a state? Life is sacred, but so is death. Ultimatly science may be capable of anything, but it should not be at the expense of human dignity.

Re:electrodes to the brain (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120315)

I don't see anything sacred in death. The whole point of medicine is to fight it. We respect it only because we know that this is an unavoidable end for our existence, but most of us would be happy to see it eradicated. If that goes against human dignity, register me as posthuman.

Re:electrodes to the brain (1)

Svenne (117693) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120495)

Who are you to decide that for this man? Just because you feel that way doesn't mean everybody else does.

I hope they find the bastards who beat him (2, Interesting)

rollingcalf (605357) | more than 7 years ago | (#20119967)

... and crush their skulls as badly as they did to this guy.

Then we could use them as experimental subjects to develop a reliable treatment for others. If the treatment makes them recover, send them to prison for more beatings. Rinse and repeat.

Brain Electrodes Help Injured Man To Speak Again (5, Funny)

Peet42 (904274) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120199)

"Owww! Ouch! Aaargh! Stop shocking my braiAAAAAAAaargh! Bastards!"

The brain as a blackbox (2, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#20120285)

What I find really interesting in such stories is that it helps fight the idea that the brain is a monolithic black box that is either on or off. This story is already a few days old and I have found sources when it says that the guy was brought back from coma thanks to electrodes. The fact is, that he never were in coma, he had a minimal set of brain function activated, occasionally he would say "yes" or "no" to simple questions but was not autonomous at all, his conscious "drive" completely gone. Now an electrodes pulses in the zone of the brain associated to consciousness but he still is not the same person as he was. Some memories are back, he can talk again, move again (I suppose in a wheelchair, I read somewhere he won't be able to walk again before several years) and has some desires again.

But having reading headlines about this story shows how uncomfortable people are with the notion that some part of your brain can be switched off without living you dead, just... different.

"Minimally conscious state" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20123033)

"Minimally conscious state" = most Republicans.

shoot me first (1)

oohshiny (998054) | more than 7 years ago | (#20123787)

I'd rather die than live like that. Unfortunately, this guy doesn't have a choice anymore.

after all (1)

Ep0xi (1093943) | more than 7 years ago | (#20124075)

after all, nobody liked who he was, so we changed him, and now he talks like a republican

Limitations (2, Interesting)

ar1550 (544991) | more than 7 years ago | (#20124555)

Unfortunately, this technology is somewhat limited right now, allowing the patient only to express "yes" and "no" as one and two beeps, respectively. The next implementation of the device will be somewhat more expressive, allowing the patient to express abstract concepts such as "guilty" and "double guilty."

The way I see it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20128245)

is that any story with dead or disabled Americans in it is all right by me!!

The more the merrier!

A real world "Terminal Man"? (1)

Old VMS Junkie (739626) | more than 7 years ago | (#20129733)

Well worth the read, by the way.
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