Brain Research – New Tools
Recent discoveries have revolutionized our understanding of the brain and how it works. They’ve given scientists new tools and new possibilities in treating brain disorders. So whereas in the past, a doctor might have proscribed a drug, in the future we’ll be seeing other options. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Friedlander: So brain research today is an extremely exciting field for a whole bunch of reasons.
Michael Friedlander is executive director of the the Virginia Tech Carillion Research Institute.
Friedlander: One of the more exciting avenues right now is the idea that we can address some of the problems that come up in the human brain with diseases, with brain injuries, by intervening and interfering with the activity in different parts of the brain. And that can be done through variety of approaches. The one that most people are probably most familiar with is the pharmacological approach.
But more recently, there’s been an attempt to be a little more physiological in terms of how we change the brain’s activity.
They can actually enter a patient’s brain and put very small wires into the brain into targeted areas, and stimulate those areas of the brain to change their activity in some way and see a very dramatic change in the outcome. For example, a patient with Parkinson’s Disease may stop showing any tremor with the right stimulation. A patient who’s depressed may change their whole view of life with that stimulation in the correct area and show no signs of depression in a matter of minutes after the stimulation. So these are very dramatic consequences and there’s a lot of discussion about how they can be used and should or should not be used under a variety of conditions.
We’ll hear about treating brain disorders in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner