Brain implants may prevent epilepsy symptoms, including seizures. Theoretically, they can change self-esteem or personality.
Epilepsy manifests itself in seizures, which can take different forms. They are caused by the simultaneous abnormal discharge of neurons in a particular area of the brain. Stoping the seizures is the most important goal when dealing with this condition. This involves acting on the cause, if known, and on the aggravating factors through surgery or drugs. Some people do not respond adequately, or at all, to the various treatment options. To treat them, researchers have developed a brain implant. In the journal AJOB Neuroscience, they presented the results of a study on its effectiveness.
Innovative ‘closed-loop’ system
Theoretically, these brain implants can affect self-esteem and personality. The device is a closed-loop system, which monitors and decodes brain activity and automatically adapts treatment – delivered via electrical impulses – based on internal algorithms. These implantable devices can provide more precise and personalized treatments than the open-loop systems used to treat Parkinson’s and other diseases by stimulating targeted brain regions in a pre-programmed way. “Next-generation brain stimulation devices can modulate brain activity without human intervention, which raises new ethical and policy questions,” says Tobias Haeusermann, lead author of the study. While there has been much speculation about the potential consequences of these innovative therapies, very little is currently known about how patients will perceive the approval of these devices for clinical use.”
Studies with people with epilepsy and their relatives
The study was launched in 2013 after being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Twelve patients and their carers’ family members were followed for two years. “Neither the prolonged implantation of the electronic device in the brain nor the electrical stimulation that modulated brain function caused any changes in the patients’ self-perception – or in the perceptions of the family members and others around them.” The researcher says he is reassured by these results: In the United States, about 3,000 people have been implanted with such brain implants. This type of device could also be used for other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, or stroke.
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