Pacemaker for the brain that switches of chronic pain An implant deep in the brain… but not for a specific injury, for widespread pain… and to do that, they had to target where we feel the emotional unpleasantness of pain… aware of the pain but not bother by it with this pacemaker active. It has an external control that can increase the ‘volume’ as needed. It is being used for stroke patients currently. Still… how freaking awesome is this. And I want one. Just saying. We all know simplistically speaking pain has two parts. There is immediate suffering, which is the physical pain itself, and we do what we can with the medications and treatments to handle this but with chronic pain there simply are limitations. Then there is secondary suffering which is the reaction to pain, which is the emotional response and how we cope with the pain onslaught and stress on the body as well as stress in life and how that affects our thinking and how we think about pain… and this is a big deal, a very large factor. Bleep that out and yeah how great would that be? To not be Bothered by it?
“When it’s stimulated, the pain is replaced by a more pleasant, tingling sensation — it’s not clear why, though it’s possibly because DBS prompts the release of mood-boosting endorphins. This helps 70 per cent of the people we take on.
However, if you’ve got widespread pain across a large part of your body — particularly common after a stroke — the area of pain is too big to be targeted in this way.So, rather than treating the pain directly, we recently decided to look at taking away the emotional unpleasantness of it. This means switching to the anterior cingulate, the part of the brain that relays sensation to another area responsible for emotion.Targeting the cingulate has already been used for patients in pain from terminal cancer — if you put an electrode there and heat it they feel immediate relief, but the effects wear off after a while.I thought if we were to implant electrodes — with control over the voltage and the pattern of the stimulation — there could be some mileage in it. We’re now convinced it works. Within a day or two, although the patient is still aware of the pain, it doesn’t bother them.It has a similar effect to morphine, without making you sleepy. But patients can still feel normal pain, for example if they were to hit their finger with a hammer — so the protective nature of pain is still there.Chronic pain is very common, but you wouldn’t put electrodes in your brain for a bit of back ache. However, 20 per cent of stroke patients suffer from intractable pain that hasn’t responded to treatment, and for them DBS could help.”