Electrical stimulation of the brain entails introducing a weak electrical current into specific locations in the brain by using multiple microelectrodes to apply short pulses of electrical current intended to mimic the natural flow of impulses through the neural pathways.
Electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB) is used in a variety of situations, including many different types of neurosurgery and some types of experimental research. In neurosurgical scenarios, this procedure may be used to assist physicians to determine target areas of brain tissue to be ablated or removed. Patients remain awake, although somewhat sedated, throughout nearly all neurosurgical procedures, in order to assure maximum safety and effectiveness of the operative intervention. Local anesthesia is used to numb the operative area. Focal epilepsy has been successfully surgically treated by using electrical stimulation of the brain in conscious patients to accurately pinpoint determine the seizure focus.
In experimental research, ESB is used for the improvement of complex neurological and biochemical disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and clinical depression. This procedure has shown clinical utility in studying the relationships among various areas and structures of the brain and the activities they control. It has been found, for example, that stimulation of the visual cortex produces visual sensations such as bursts of light or color (blind people have seen spots of light as a result of ESB). Similarly, stimulation of the auditory cortex results in aural sensation, while stimulating areas associated with motor control produces arm, leg, or other body movements. Stimulation of areas of the brain linked to association can induce memories of scenes or events.
Electrical brain stimulation has been successfully used for additional therapeutic purposes. Brain stem and cerebellar stimulation have aided in some movement disorders; peroneal nerve stimulation has been used to treat dropfoot in individuals who have experienced strokes; and transcutaneous nerve, dorsal-column, and deep-brain stimulation have shown great potential for the relief of chronic and severe pain syndromes.
See also Deep brain stimulation ; Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) ; Epilepsy; Localization (brain tunction) .
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