In a new study out Monday, scientists say they can now record people’s brain activity wirelessly throughout the day—a feat that could allow for better research into the brain’s inner workings. They then used that data to adjust the treatment of people with Parkinson’s disease through deep brain stimulation. It’s an exciting advancement, but some patients are worried about what continuous, at-home brain monitoring means for privacy.
Deep brain stimulation is when electrical signals are periodically sent to the brain through surgically implanted electrodes that are connected to a pacemaker-like device implanted right underneath the chest. The signals, controlled by the device, are supposed to counteract the erratic brain activity associated with many neurological or psychiatric conditions, in theory helping treat some of their symptoms. So far, deep brain stimulation is known to help people with Parkinson’s and other movement or seizure disorders, but it’s also being explored for treatment-resistant depression.
Deep brain stimulation can be a life-improving therapy for many, but scientists have been trying to improve its effectiveness for some time. Currently, for instance, it can take a long while and multiple hospital visits for doctors and patients to fine-tune the right level and timing of deep brain stimulation to best alleviate their symptoms, based on short-term readings of their brain activity. But scientists at the University of California, San Francisco have beendeveloping an adjustable form of the treatment, one that only sends out stimulation when it’s deemed necessary, based on real-time recordings of brain activity.
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