Neurological Disorders Treated with a 'Brain pacemaker'.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, July 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

Neurological Disorders Treated with a 'Brain pacemaker'.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


THE most prominent victim of a neurological disorder called "essential tremor" is former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

Recently reports have it that his Holiness Pope John Paul II is also afflicted with it.

This malady is more known to laymen as Parkinson's Disease, named after James Parkinson, the physician who discovered it in the early 1800s.

But the ailment, together with other neurological dysfunctions like epilepsy, dystonia and severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, are now being treated with "encouraging results."

The remedy, though still marred by controversy, is done by putting in place a "deep brain stimulator."

Again, to non-medical sectors, the gadget is better understood as a "brain pacemaker."

According to Mary Carmichael, writing for NEWSWEEK International Newsmagazine, issue of June 24, some 15,000 Parkinson's patients around the world have received brain pacemakers in clinical trials for the past ten years.

What's the trouble

Neurological illnesses are caused when neurons - granular cells in the brain - "abandon their normal electrical functions and start misfiring wildly."

This erratic activity triggers uncontrollable movements in the case of Parkinson's, or recalcitrant behaviors as in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How do they go about the surgical invasion?

Surgeons implant electrodes - electrical conductors - in the affected part of the brain after drilling the patient's skull. Next, they implant the pacemaker which is actually a generator into the chest, wiring it through the neck and up to the electrodes in the brain.

"When the doctors activate the generator, the implanted wires come alive deep within the brain and electrically stun the misfiring nerve cells, which immediately stop transmitting their faulty messages," says the NEWSWEEK article. …

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