June 26, 2013
Over the past decade, tens of thousands of people with certain types of Parkinson's disease (and OCD, depression, Tourette's, and other neuropsychiatric conditions) have benefitted from deep brain stimulation. The treatment involves putting electrodes through a person's skull and into the most central parts of parts of their brain, then portably delivering incremental shocks to control the brain's signaling. But only more recently have the results of the surgery, which still sounds surreal, been made tangible and widely accessible by patients who've chosen to put themselves on YouTube.
Andrew Johnson, for one, is a 39-year-old from New Zealand who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when he was 35. That constitutes early-onset, not the norm. As he writes on his blog, Young and Shaky, his daughter was two years-old at the time, and he and his wife were expecting their second child. The disease progressed rapidly, so he got his stimulator put in relatively shortly after he got the diagnosis. (Johnson recently did a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything on his experience, which was interesting and poignant.)
To fully appreciate the effect that DBS had for Johnson, watch how his symptoms return when he shuts the power off:
YouTube as the vehicle it's become for demonstrations and support, reassures patients on massive scales and them right questions of physicians. This strange science feels real, comprehensible, somehow not far removed from Mentos and Coke, but with wires in human brains.
Read more at The Atlantic.
June 26, 2013