In America, a woman gets happiness back after unprecedented brain transplant

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In America, a woman gets happiness back after unprecedented brain transplant

American Amber Pearson used to wash her hands until they bled, terrified by the idea of ​​contaminating herself with everyday objects, one of many behaviors provoked by her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

But the repetitive rituals of his condition had largely returned to his memory, thanks to a revolutionary brain implant that is being used to treat both his epilepsy and OCD.

“I’m really present in my daily life and it’s amazing. “Before, I was constantly worrying about my limitations,” the 34-year-old woman told AFP.

Brain implants recently made headlines with network tycoon Elon Musk announcing that scientists hope it will make it possible for people to control smartphones without thinking.

But the idea of ​​inserting a device into the brain isn’t new, and doctors have known for decades that precisely applied electrical stimulation can affect the way the brain works.

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This deep brain stimulation is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other conditions that affect movement, including epilepsy.

Doctors working on Pearson’s case offered him a 32-millimeter device to treat epileptic seizures, believing that it would be able to detect the activity that generated these episodes and detect a pulse. sends who will interfere with them.

It was then that Pearson had an enlightening flash to make his contribution.

“It was his idea to say, ‘Okay, you’re going to go into my brain and put this wire in, and I have OCD, can you put a wire in for OCD?’” Neurosurgeon Ahmed Raslan, who performed the , recalled the procedure at Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland on the U.S. west coast.

“And, fortunately, we took that suggestion seriously,” he said.

There have been some previous studies on the use of deep brain stimulation in people with OCD, but, according to Ruslan, it has never been linked with treating epilepsy.

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Doctors worked with Pearson to see what exactly happens in her brain when she gets stuck in an obsessive loop.

The technique involved exposing him to known stressors (in this case, seafood consumption) and recording electrical pulses.

Thus, they were able to effectively isolate the brain activity associated with their OCD.

They can then configure their implant to respond to that specific signal.

Esperanza

The dual-function device now monitors brain activity associated with both epilepsy and OCD.

“This is the only device in the world that treats two diseases,” Raslan highlights.

“And it is programmed independently. Therefore, the epilepsy program is different from the OCD program,” he said.

He believes that this is an advancement that can only come from outside the scientific field.

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“This is the first time in the world that this has been done. We usually think of devices for OCD or epilepsy. “This idea is out of the ordinary and could only come from a patient,” the neurosurgeon said.

For her part, Pearson had to wait eight months after the 2019 procedure to see any noticeable difference in her behavior.

But gradually, the habitual rituals that troubled him began to subside and he spent eight or nine hellish hours every day from adolescence onwards. And his life became normal.

Raslan said a study is now underway at the University of Pennsylvania to look at how the use of this technology could be expanded, potentially providing hope to some of the 2.5 million people who suffer from OCD in the United States.

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