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Pacemakers for the brain

An engineer of MEDTECH company checks the 'ROSA' robot aimed at helping surgeons during brain operations on October 19, 2012. Researchers in Baltimore have just begun experimenting with a kind of pacemaker for the brain.

"Actually we did the second surgery last Tuesday so we've done two," says Dr. Paul Rosenberg, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "The really cool part is they saw brain metabolism improve over that year. Saw what looked like a change for the better."

Rosenberg's leading the study there which eventually will wire up 40 patients. It's building on data Rosenberg's colleague gathered in Canada, which showed some memory improvement, especially in people with early stages of Alzheimer's. And a brain metabolism improvement could mean a brain that is healthier and more active.

"The neurons may be healthier," he says. "Metabolism is the rate that you take up fuel, you take up sugar into the brain.  And they're doing it more rapidly with the brain stimulation.  We think that's good.  Notice my caution: we think that's good."

Wires to the brain have already been used to treat thousands of people suffering the tremors of Parkinson's.


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