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This Is Your Brain on Electricity
Noah Shachtman Email 08.28.01 | 2:00 AM

For decades, doctors have used pacemakers to regulate the heart. Now they're implanting similar devices into the brain.

Thousands of patients with the most serious cases of Parkinson's disease and epilepsy have received the devices since they obtained approval in 1997 from the Food and Drug Administration. Hundreds more are slated to take part in clinical trials to see if the pacemakers' electrical impulses can control chronic pain, depression and even obesity.

In America, over 1.2 million people suffering from depression have found that traditional medications don't work for them, say makers of the device. About 250,000 epileptics are in the same situation, as are nearly 100,000 sufferers of Parkinson's disease.

So far, early results are positive. Dr. Rajesh Pahwa, an associate professor of neurology at University of Kansas Medical Center, has implanted hundreds of the devices, finding that 80 percent of his pacemakered patients with Parkinson's showed significant improvement -- with a 40 percent reduction in need for medication and a 40 to 50 percent reduction of symptoms.

Before receiving her pacemakers, Carole Carey, a 48-year-old retired teacher in Leavenworth, Kansas, was "tremoring all of the time" because of her advanced-staged Parkinson's. Driving a car -- even cutting up her own food -- had become impossible for Carey.

"We called it the jackhammer, because one side would be going up and down so bad," she said.

Medicines designed to reduce the tremors would send her into dyskinesia -- uncontrolled twitching -- and into bouts of hyperactivity.

Surgeons implanted two pager-sized battery packs near her collarbone and wires into her brain's subthalamic nucleus. Electrical pulses from these devices have quieted her tremors enough to allow her to cut her medical intake in half, and to start driving and eating on her own again.

These electricity-based treatments work because "all brain activity is basically electrical chattering between cells," said Dr. Rodolfo Llinas, chairman of the physiology and neuroscience department at the New York University School of Medicine.

Diseases such as Parkinson's, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression all occur when particular cell groups start "talking" too slowly, developing a sluggish, sleep-like rhythm. This drowsy conversation sets off a chain reaction, which can lead to tremors, seizures or depressive episodes, depending upon what part of the brain is affected.

"Parkinson's, depression, OCD, tinnitus (loud, incessant ringing in the ears), central pain -- they're all the same disease. The difference is their brain location, not the mechanism," Llinas said.

By emitting electrical impulses into the brain -- a process known as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) -- the pacemakers, such as the ones implanted into Carole Carey, are supposed to interrupt these cellular yawn-fests, waking up the cells and minimizing the episodic frequency of seizures or other symptoms that afflict the wearer.

The pacemaker device sends electrical impulses through one of the brain's 10 billion neurons, triggering the release of chemicals, among them serotonin and dopamine, that in turn "convince" neighboring cells to send out new electrical impulses to other neurons.

DBS is currently approved in the U.S. only for controlling the tremors caused by Parkinson's and "essential tremor," a common, unidentifiable (yet benign) tremor exacerbated by stress, anxiety or the use of stimulants such as caffeine.

But trials to investigate the effects of the pacemaker implants on all of the symptoms of Parkinson's and on chronic pain are currently underway at the University of Kansas, the Cleveland Clinic and elsewhere.[WHAT ABOUT THE DIAGNOSED AS DEPRESSED?}

At Brown University, studies of the effects of DBS on OCD are slated to begin later this year. Around the same time, surgeons at Cornell University will begin to use the pacemaker to try to revive people in minimally conscious states.[YEAH TRY THIS OUT ON THE MINIMALLY CONSCIOUS-THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS]

When implanting the DBS device, researchers must be painstakingly precise -- a few millimeters off can make a huge difference. A misplaced electrode in the treatment for Parkinson's, say, can induce depression.[LOL]

And these 5-to-10-hour surgeries must be done while the patient is awake -- and unmedicated.

"I could feel them putting the wires in my brain," Carey said. "It's like a long hair going down your throat."

According to Pahwa, Carey's neurologist, these devices are implanted incorrectly about 20 percent of the time, necessitating repeat surgery. Another 10 percent of the time, the hardware fails. There's also about a 3 percent risk of bleeding in the brain, which in very rare circumstances can cause a stroke or a coma.[SAY THEN, 80% ARE BOGUS IF 33% ARE ADMITTED]

For these reasons and others, Llinas says he's against electrode implantation.

Another model of pacemaker attempts to sidestep these complications by implanting the wires into the vagus nerve -- one of the brain's major pathways to and from the upper torso, which is located around the neck, near the brain stem.

Known as Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), this procedure has been approved domestically for the treatment of epileptic seizures.

Researchers at 20 labs across the country are now investigating the effects of VNS on people with long-term, medication-resistant depression. The last of 235 subjects was implanted with the device last month. (The procedure has already been approved for such purposes in Europe and Canada.)

The effects of VNS on other conditions are being examined, too. For example, since many scientists believe the vagus nerve passes along information from the stomach -- to indicate to the brain when the stomach is full -- researchers at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York are looking into VNS as a treatment for obesity.

But the precise mechanics behind why VNS works are still largely a mystery.

"We're only guessing at what the chemical basis for this might be," said Dr. Mitchel Kling, a psychiatry professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where a trail for VNS use against depression is taking place.

In contrast, Llinas said, much more is known about chemical therapies. Drugs like dopamine are "incredibly precise" because they only interact with the cells that have receptors for the chemical.

So while brain pacemakers are promising, Llinas feels they should "only be a choice as a last resort."

But for people like Carey, sometimes a last resort is all that's left.

"This was my last hope. I was getting pretty desperate by then," she said. "And I figured, if they're opening my head up and they slip, well, it's OK."


<img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/scream.gif" alt="Scream" title="scream" /> THIS WAS NOT AN 'ONION' PRESENTATION!
Too bad chrisxs disappeared......

It'd be interesting to interrogate him about the possibility of EEG canceling those noise eliminating headphones.

oh well......
Still here
Damned ...any caveats ???
Quote:I've read that the pineal gland regulates the circadian rhythm and that it has retained a vestigial photosensitivity. I've also found that I can back-light the retina by aiming a low-power laser through my temple region. Therefore, I think that a sufficiently high power laser diode aimed from the top...between the cerebral hemispheres...may be able to influence the pineal gland.

Take great care with that laser. If the power could damage your retina from the front, it is just as likely to damage it from the back of the retina. I would not use a laser on me or my family in that way.

Quote:Instead of a slow 24 hr. circadian cycle...why not force the pineal gland to react to a much faster, artificial cycle by means of pulsed laser radiation??? I'd like to connect the laser to an oscillator operating at an average frequency typical EEG frequencies. I would attempt to augment any increased pineal activity by ingesting melatonin.

If the pineal responds to your laser wavelength, you may have found a cure for jet lag! My concern here is that not only the pineal may absorb light from the laser (e.g. retina again).

Typical EEG frequencies are 0.1 to 40Hz. The most obvious when awake and eyes closed is around 10Hz alpha rhythm.

Quote:My idea is that the brain has a natural "operating system" like a computer...but that there is the possibility of other...latent...operating systems which might be activated with faster circadian cycles.

It is an interesting hypothesis. Either nothing will happen or you will awaken a new you. I hope it is friendly.

I would think that the mammalian circadian rhythm would have been different when the moon was closer to the earth and day length was shorter. I think the "clock frequency" of the brain is set at different speeds, with the heart beat being the most pervasive and present all through life, pulsing blood through the brain. The hearbeat evoked potential has been reported by some EEG researchers, but I have not seen it yet since the ECG (=EKG) is so large when looking at the EEG.

As with all experiments, make sure you are not alone in case anything goes wrong, keep a lab book describing all your equipment and results, and make sure you run parallel controls with everything running except the active component. I would get someone else to set you a memory test and mini mental state test before and after the experiment, since some effects on the brain are subtle and you may not notice them, being the person affected.

Good luck if you go ahead with this, but my advice is not to.
chrisxs warns......
Quote:Take great care with that laser. If the power could damage your retina from the front, it is just as likely to damage it from the back of the retina.

Well...I DID test the device intensity by first directing the beam through the webbing between my fingers. The radiation appeared to be greatly reduced AND diffused. The emission spec peaks between 630->680 nm at a max output of <5mW. The red spectral band would be further filtered by the intervening blood flow. It's just an ordinary "cat pointer" type.

There are devices with emission peaks in green and blue...and now even in UV bands which sound tempting......

Ideally, I suppose the ultimate solution would be an array of fiber optics threaded through the cranium such that the radiation would directly impinge upon the pineal. In this case, simple RGB LEDs might suffice for switching purposes.

Quote:It is an interesting hypothesis. Either nothing will happen or you will awaken a new you. I hope it is friendly.

I think your concern about my "latent brain operating systems" notion is that I may awaken some long forgotten Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde atavism. After all, the pineal gland can be traced through evolution to phototropic organelles in much simpler organisms. I can offer no assurances. The only precedent I can speak to is that the Great Inventor, Nikola Tesla, is reported to have experimented with Röntgen tubes aimed at his head.

I'm against animal experimentation. I feel I must take responsibility for my my own actions.

Finally, you say......
Quote:... make sure you run parallel controls with everything running except the active component.
I take it this is to ensure that a short through passive components won't result in a catastrophic overdrive of the laser. I admit I hadn't thought of that......
Another thought.... take care with UV emitters. The human retina is very sensitive to UV, and it is potentially damaging. The lens at the front of the eye usually blocks out the UV from the sun. People who have had the lens removed (e.g. for cataracts) can report perceiving an defocussed aura-like effect that is their brain trying to code the UV stimulation of the retina, that they have never seen before.

Red is often used as a physiological stimulus, especially for evoked potential studies, because it is transmitted readily through the closed eyelid.

Hamamatsu make medical grade near-infra red optode recording systems for studying cerebral blood flow. Some colleagues of mine have used such systems. The skull is translucent to NIR.
OK...let's dispense with any UV emitters......

I started thinking about all this after viewing a very fast color cycling of a fractal image. I experienced a strange "tugging" sensation in my head. about other routes???

Do you recall a story several years ago about the back of the knee being sensitive to blue light??? I can't recall what sort of response was indicated, but I wonder whether there are other areas besides the eye which are photosensitive. I mean, the back of the knee makes me think about vestigial arthropod circuitry which might be accessible to stimulation.
The sensation you felt may have been the start of an epilepsy-like effect.

I have not seen the "back of the knee" results.

I do know a bit about arthropod neurophysiology. There is no common wiring at all with mammals. Even the neurons have differences. Arthropod neurons are in general a lot larger than mamallian neurons. The large diameter of insect axons makes them conduct action potentials a lot faster than mammalian neurones, even though they have no myelin.

Many visual processing neurons of insects descend the ventral nerve cord (totally different from our spinal cord) and make direct connections to motorneurons. This is why bees demonstrate optomotor head turning to a visual stimulus in 80 milliseconds, compared with our first processing occuring at 100 milliseconds.

Well-studied insect neurons are the Descending Contralateral Movement Detector (DCMD) of locusts and the Dorsal Unpaired Medial cells of insect ganglia, involved in locomotion and endocrine function.
Kalter what you want for the pineal...
try chocolate coated Semilanceata and colloidal gold.
CS is neurally highly stimulatory as well.

[Image: 23462808.jpg]

Here's a Firefox cached google page for "blue light popliteal region" referring to a patent based on what I was talking about...... ... =firefox-a

There is/was a thread here at Hidden Mission where we briefly discussed this controversial phenomenon. I've searched for the thread without success so far......some current members may be able to supply a relevant link.
Blue Venus......

I have experimented with chocolatl + teonanacatl with overwhelming results. Some of the effects were alarming...loud, feedback type squealing sounds...reality dissolving into a corpuscular mist......

...and exquisitely gorgeous...ivory, gold, copper, silver 3D sculptures......

<img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/damned.gif" alt="Damned" title="damned" /> I was in a pitch black forest. The ground was luminous green and within the tree bark were rivulets of lava......

The last time was the turn of The Millenium.
Thanks Kalter Rauch. I will follow-up the patent. don't see a danger with some sort of "knee-jerk reaction" ???

Be sure you scroll way down on that link to see the rest of the patent. It's something that would REALLY befuddle the airport screeners.
The patent claims are very interesting. The authors have produced several papers in the field e.g.

I think their findings are sound.

In the absence of identified photoreceptors, I would suggest that the "back of the knee" effect is a local confirmational change in the bioavailability of a light-sensitive peptide. Such a peptide might be similar to Delta Sleep Inducing peptide (DSIP), normally found in blood (& milk), whch has both a hydrophobic and hydrophilic configuration. If light changed that configuration or the rate at which an enzyme broke down DSIP or its precursor, it is possible that the ability of DSIP to cross the blood brain barrier would be changed, in turn altering the EEG and sleep-wake cycle.

I see no safety issues with the apparatus described by Campbell and Murphy. Shield the eyes because the light is very intense.
I'm wondering if the energy therapy - tapping certain meridians, accupuncture and tracing meridians operates the same way, unblocking electrical impulses and speeding up/slowing down these transmissions.

Its much safer and it works.

This is another side of you I wasn't aware of since
we've been members here!

With all respect I think you're nuts experimenting on yourself
with things like this - and like I said to V, "semolina" is plenty
"high" for me! I have "hallucinations" without any external
assistance, and I see blue every time I log in to THM!

Anyway, too specialist a subject for me!

What benefits are you exactly looking for, for the masses
here? I can understand medical ends, but....electro/laser trips....!?

<img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/cheers.gif" alt="Cheers" title="cheers" />
Quote:With all respect I think you're nuts experimenting on yourself...

With all due respect <img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/Whatever_anim.gif" alt=":whatever:" title="whatever" /> Orpbit, I don't believe that it's up to scientists and other professionals to come up with all the answers.

How many decades...if not centuries...will it take for scientists to finally get around to addressing the question of UFOs??? As an amateur astronomer, I've seen enough to convince me that we can't wait for a plodding peer reviewed process to get beyond the mindset that the unwashed masses are merely mistaking meteors, etc. for alien spacecraft.'s not like I'm advocating taking LSD and staring at the sun. I'm not stupid. I've got a college education. I dropped out of a biology major after I couldn't stand what was being presented about animal experimentation. All they can do is cry in pain or dumbly try to please The Master (except for my cat, of course...the little bastard......).

Sooo...I think I have to blaze my own trail, and suffer the consequences if I slip up. My proposals are in the same grand tradition of Tesla's X-ray experiments and Franklin flying a kite in a thunderstorm. Ignorance is all the more reason to Conquer The Unknown.

For example...over the last few days I've been considering a method for generating 3D phosphenes by means of piezoelectric excitation of the intra ocular fluid. I don't think there's a danger of producing sonoluminescent bubbles leading to retinal tearing and eventual blindness...although I can't be 100% certain. I just think the payoff is worth what I perceive as a very negligible risk...probably less than simply rubbing my eyes in the morning.
Nah! You're straying "off-topic" Kalter. We have gun control here by
consent of the vast majority of the population....end of "off-topic"

I can understand people wanting voluntarily to fry their brains
for a multitude of reasons. I can understand you having an interest in
this very specialist subject too, but I don't understand why the
interest should be that urgent that you would potentially risk
doing the same in this way. I can't understand the "trail" that you
say you are "blazing".

It's just an honest question, without any overtones of political beliefs
or any other issue we have discussed here at THM!

For example, I've been suffering "tinnitus" (so they say) since
August 2003, which I put down to the introduction of a 3G mast
in our area which I'm pretty sure kicked off the problem for me.
They even gave me a "brainless" scan, ( I say that because after
the scan I saw an image of a cross-section of a skull and I asked
if that was from my scan. They said yes! Well apart from the
eyeballs the image was otherwise all black and from that day on
I say to everyone that I saw the proof that I was "brainless" and
I don't mind being called that Cheers
Basically, no-one should experiment on themselves today. I remember attending a lecture by Dr Brain, the inventor of the Laryngeal Mask Airway, now used by anaesthetists around the world. He built and tested the first versions on himself, in his garage. Dr Brain has received awards and deserved credit for his invention, but such methods for developing new healthcare products are now banned in the UK.

I have listed my opinion of the legal background regarding research on human subjects in the UK. I take no responsibility for any errors; as far as I know this is all correct.

No-one can experiment on anyone (including themselves) without a favourable ethical opinion from a body regulated under the National Research Ethics Scheme. This follows the Helsinki Accords. Most countries have similar schemes.

If anyone is developing a medical device in Europe, it has to be approved by the regional competant body administering the Medical Devices Directive. In the UK that is the MHRA, who also regulate new drugs.

Any healthcare organisation conducting research needs to maintain regulatory standards under Good Clinical Practice and Clinical Governance requirements, and locally approve projects.

Only state-registered physicians or state-registered clinical scientists are normally permitted to gain approval from the above bodies as Principal Investigators responsible for drug and equipment trials.

Every trial must have a research sponsor who usually provides indemnity and oversight for the project.

The result of all this is that research on human subjects, even on yourself, may be illegal without appropriate approvals. In addition, all healthcare and life insurance is likely to be made void by any evidence of unapproved experimentation.
<img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/naughty.gif" alt="Naughty" title="naughty" /> Orpbit......I see no mention in my last post about gun control.
Yes...I DID quickly edit my post of that off-topic material...but then you felt it necessary to re-introduce it in your post for some reason...over an hour later.

Be that as it may...aside from what I revealed to a certain "V-enus" (who I suspect is a certain V-ery imaginative regular poster here), I haven't promoted anything approaching fried brains...except MAYBE what I said about stimulating the pineal gland.

It's not so much a sense of "urgency" or a need to help people that I feel...but rather curiosity. you, I also experience varying degrees of tinnitus. Sometimes it sounds like a flock of birds...more often like white noise. I attribute it to loud music. As far as your "blank slate" readout goes...I don't know...maybe you didn't remove your tin foil before being scanned ???

I just think you're blowing the risk factor way out of proportion compared to what confronts me the moment I step out the door...get in the car...and go down to the store.

All I'm suggesting is feeding the senses with novel forms of stimulation which are probably a lot less dangerous than running out of a sauna and plunging into an icy river.

People have played with themselves since the dawn of time.

OK...take, for example, what I said about artificially stimulating phosphenes......

What exactly constitutes an "experimental apparatus"???

If I rub my eyes and see complex geometric forms then would that fall under the purview of regulated medical experimentation???


Well can replacing my fingers with piezo transducers for the purpose of generating even MORE fantastic shapes and colors be considered illegal?

What about sensory deprivation experiments...or variations thereof, like the Ganzfeld Field? Should these areas be restricted to only officially recognized research agencies because an "unstable" individual know...experience an acute psychotic episode???

People once thought tomatoes were poisonous...until a renegade hungry person decided to take a chance.

I some point an individual has to take the First Step.

I know what I read and I responded to that as the short
"off-topic" comment I made. I have not read your edited
version until now, and I welcome that edit.

I also welcome your answer, and of course the risk factor
involved is your "risk" so to speak.

All I can say is that I know people who took that risk and
one of those is still trying to get his life straight 25 years
after his first "riskless" trip!

I just feel people who might come across this thread should
be aware of that. I make no judgement on people who undertake
these sorts of things, just reminding them of their responsibility
to others!

Take care!

<img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/cheers.gif" alt="Cheers" title="cheers" />

By rubbing your eyes you are exerting intraocular pressure that is causing stimulation of the retina and possibly optic nerve. If you already had a condition such as glaucoma or a detached retina, that you may not know about, just rubbing your eyes may cause a problem. It is not inherently "safe" just because everyone does it.

By introducing a device to induce the same result, albiet by electricity, you are crossing into medical research.

I think the days of the lone experimenter in human physiology are gone in the EU and US.

My understanding is that all devices for use on human subjects must have a CE mark denoting compliance with the Medical Devices Directive in the EU and FDA approval in the US. Experimental devices are those without such approval, that are undergoing any form of trial.

IMO the level of regulation is getting to the point where medical experimentation for the development of new drugs and equipment is not being done. This potential lack of progress is not a good thing, but has been done with the best intent i.e. protecting the public from rogue scientists and physicians.

Nuremburg and the resulting Helsinki accords arose from evidence of inhuman treatment, and all research ethics committees are bound by the same international agreements. A repeated argument used by the ethics committees I have attended recently is coercion. Should an individual be coerced into conducting an experiment, either on others or themselves, this is also subject to regulation and the law.

By obtaining ethical opinion, even for self-experimentation, this makes sure that any element of coercion is eliminated. Research ethics committees also provide independant peer review, and comprise ordinary members of the public as well as physicians.

I always test my appropriately approved and safety-checked equipment on myself before using it on a volunteer as part of any trial. This is because I believe that I carry the final responsibility for its use. I have been the first volunteer for trials of all of my inventions, but only after safety-checking and approvals were conducted.
orpbit & chrisxs......

Your points are well taken.


Incidently...I did some googling for "phosphene stimulation".

The results range from art/entertainment

to some drastic scientific experimentation meant to provide blind people with artificial sight......
Quote:orpbit & chrisxs......

Your points are well taken.
BUT they are in the UK. The Nanny State got a head start there.

"When my soul is sick unlimited spiritual liberty is given me by the State. Now then, it doesn't seem logical that the state shall depart from this great policy, the health of the soul, and change about and take the other position in the matter of smaller consequences--the health of the body...
Whose property is my body? Probably mine. I so regard it. If I experiment with it, who must be answerable? I, not the State. If I choose injudiciously, does the State die? Oh, no."
- Mark Twain, Osteopathy speech, 1902
I think I see where you're coming from, SJ......

Such are the consequences of socialized medicine underwritten by the insurance companies???

I think you will find these links of interest:

Somewhere in them are the multiple, overlapping and diffuse definitions of what constitutes a medical or experimental device.
Another example of too much electricity to the brain.

[Image: mrbeanay3.gif]
From the MHRA/UK site......

Quote:The term “medical devices” includes medical equipment. Medical devices are all products, except medicines, used in healthcare for the diagnosis, prevention, monitoring or treatment of illness or disability.

<img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/hmm2.gif" alt="Hmm2" title="hmm2" /> OK, chrisxs...this general statement might be interpreted such that my hypothetical Pineal Stimulator would NOT qualify as a "medical device" since it is intended to be used by healthy individuals.

On the other hand, the device COULD be judged to fall under MHRA guidelines on the basis of its theory of operation. That is...the inventor (me) made a determination that a normally functioning pineal gland is intrinsically the potential benefits of the gland's photosensitivity are canceled as a result of its location deep in the brain.
Thus the INTENDED USE is the treatment of a disability...regardless of the relative soundness of the theory of operation !!!

HOWEVER...if the stimulator is marketed as an entertainment as a gaming controller...then its use might very well be sanctioned in the same manner as other "brainwave" devices being developed for personal computers.
Quote: Another example of too much electricity to the brain.

[Image: mrbeanay3.gif]
<img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/rofl.gif" alt="Rofl" title="rofl" /> ...or perhaps the proper bedside manner in a pediatric ward !!!
Kalter Rauch:

Good points especially re. the game console. I suggest that there are big distinctions between active current or electromagnetic injecting devices e.g. defibrillators, electroconvulsive therapy, and passive sensors e.g. EEG, ECG (=EKG), where no current or electromagnetic radiation is being injected into the body.

Your proposed device is active.
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