Medical professionals tackle mental diseases and disorders to the best of their abilities using a range of medical and psychological techniques. However, even with access to the latest technology and knowledge, treatments for these diseases may not work for everyone. Diseases such as Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s cause deterioration of the minds and bodies of those who suffer from them. While there is currently no cure for these conditions, doctors are able to help sufferers somewhat. One way to treat such ailments is by stimulating the brain with electrodes, as a way to stave off detrimental effects. These treatments have proven to be effective in some cases, but also involve a necessary and expensive surgery to implant electrodes directly into the brain. Doctors are searching for new ways to stimulate the brain without the need for this surgery, and there have been promising results in tests on mice conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Professor Edward Boyden, the senior author on the project, and his team are testing a non-invasive stimulation technique which could prove to be a less expensive alternative to current neurological treatments. Traditionally, doctors performed surgery to implant the electrodes into the brain that involves physically opening up a patient’s cranium, but Boyden explains that “only a small number of people can do this kind of neurosurgery.” Instead, Boyden’s technique involves placing electrodes on the surface of the scalp. Once they are in place, the electrodes send both a low-frequency and a high-frequency electrical signal into the brain that causes a reaction within the patient’s neurons. Then they can target specific locations in the brain and do what they need to do. This kind of procedure can theoretically be performed on anyone, as it does not involve the risks or limitations of the pre-existing technique. The team is currently testing the technique on mice, but have moved on to human trials on patients without mental disorders. If these tests show positive potential, doctors will approve non-invasive stimulation for use in patients with mental illness, including Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease.
While this technique does promise many benefits for those suffering from neurological disorders, the public will have to wait a while until this treatment becomes available. Many more trials await this team before the FDA will sign off on using this to treat actual patients. Whether or not this technique will continue to show promise in further testing is anyone’s guess, but many are hoping that this procedure will continue to live up to its potential. Even though this treatment is noninvasive, there is no information on how widely available it will be once it is approved, nor any speculation on the cost. Furthermore, there is no definite timeline for when this technique will become accessible to the public. Despite that, noninvasive brain stimulation has been showing promise in its current subjects, and Boyden’s team are confident about its future results.
Sources: New Electrical Stimulation Technique Shows Promise in Mice, Noninvasive Deep Brain Stimulation via Temporarily Interfering Electrical Fields, Non-Invasive stimulation shows potential to treat Parkinson’s