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What is the Brain-Machine Interface
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Persons with Parkinson's disease, or with disorders such as epilepsy, suffer from aberrant and uncontrolled movements, sensations, and behaviors due to disturbances in electrical brain functioning. Unlike past procedures where particular areas of brain tissue were ablated, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) aims to control involuntary movements using a thin electrode inserted deep into the brain to deliver a more regularly pulsed electric current, superseding the erratic pulses caused by the illness. This treatment has proven successful in many patients with movement disorders.
The electrodes for DBS reside deep in the brain. The electrical pulses -- the functional aspects of the device -- are regulated by a device similar to a pacemaker, inserted under the skin of the intraclavicular region. Like a pacemaker, its stimulation parameters are easily adjusted during a routine office visit. Such devices have been shown to greatly improve functioning in many of those who have been incapacitated by a movement disorder.
Under investigation is a newer prototype that, rather than emitting a constant and regular pulse, would detect an oncoming seizure through abnormal or arrhythmic brain waves. The device could then send out a regulating signal or pulse only when a seizure is imminent, making it both more efficient and more effective.
In addition to movement disorders, deep brain stimulation is being tested to treat depression and other psychiatric disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, addiction, and eating disorders.6 In this use of DBS as a mode of neuromodulation, electrodes are inserted deep into the brain in order to "interrupt specific pathways between the frontal lobes and the deeper emotional parts of the brain, essentially 'rewiring' the brain."
Because the electrodes are surgically placed while the patient is conscious, the effect can be noted immediately. Neurosurgeons can be certain of the correct placement by observing and monitoring the patient's physical reactions and changes in mood as the electrodes' positions change.
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