April 25th, 2006

Advanced Weapons Testing

More Science Fiction Tech Becomes Real

A direct brain treatment is looking effective for severe pain, Parkinson's, depression, and OCD.
The treatment is known as deep-brain stimulation, which involves placing implantable electrodes into specific parts of the brain that are functioning abnormally. The electrodes emit pulses of electrical stimulation to block the abnormal activities in the brain, which cause symptoms like pain, movement problems, obsessions and anxieties associated with psychiatric disorders.
I hope everyone working on this has read Crichton's The Terminal Man. He shows that same tech being used to treat a serial killer, writing in 1972. It goes badly because the researchers, while trying to distract him from his psychotic impulses, wind up providing positive feedback for them. Oops. A cautionary tale for brain docs.

There's clearly much more research needed before this becomes a practical treatment. The study they hung the news article on reported improvement in the depression of "four of six" patients. So they're nowhere near being statistically signficant results. But if we're getting a good grasp of the mechanics of the brain we'll be in a position to make huge gains down the line.