How AI Could Upgrade Brain Stimulation Therapies

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How AI Could Upgrade Brain Stimulation Therapies
Stereotactic Neurosurgery operation, Pasteur 2 Hospital, Nice, France. A patient with Parkinsons disease is being treated with deep brain stimulation by implanting electrodes in brain and modulating cerebral electrical activity.
Stereotactic Neurosurgery operation, Pasteur 2 Hospital, Nice, France. A patient with Parkinsons disease is being treated with deep brain stimulation by implanting electrodes in brain and modulating cerebral electrical activity.
Photo: BSIP/Universal Images Group (Getty Images)

The human brain, just like whatever you’re reading this on, uses electricity to function. Neurons are constantly sending and receiving electrical signals. Everyone’s brain works a bit differently, and scientists are now getting closer to establishing how electrical activity is functioning in individual patients’ brains and how to stimulate it to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders. Some scientists are even using advanced AI predictive technology to enhance their brain stimulation therapy methods.

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The idea of brain stimulation is not new and carries with it the cultural infamy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a particularly brutal depiction of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Though ECT is still in use today to treat depression and other disorders, it’s come a long way since its invention in the 1930s.

Beyond ECT, there are therapies like vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), magnetic seizure therapy (MST), transcranial current stimulation (tCS), and deep brain stimulation (DBS). Unlike noninvasive brain stimulation, which is done from the outside without any surgery involved, deep brain stimulation involves a surgery to actually implant electrodes in the brain. It’s typically used for treating serious neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. TMS, which is noninvasive, is currently used to treat depression.

Flavio Frohlich, director of the Carolina Center for Neurostimulation at the UNC School of Medicine, told Gizmodo that other brain stimulation techniques we use today typically use much less electricity than ECT.