BRAIN PACING

If Scientists were as sexy as reality stars, they would get a lot more press.

Medical breakthroughs often don’t make the news unless it is a claim like a cure for cancer brought about by drinking more wine, or has an interesting physical component (like growing a new ear on the back of a mouse) but, every day, scientists and doctors launch new and amazing procedures, drugs and devices that change the lives of millions. If it affects us directly, we want to know more.

But if it’s not relevant to us today, we tend to ignore it. Which is not only sad, it’s silly.

In the past couple of years there have been some incredible advances in medicine.

A perfect example of this is the Neuropace pacemaker designed to reduce and even eliminate Epileptic seizures.

Epilepsy is a debilitating condition whereby sufferers are suddenly brought down by uncontrolled spasms that range in severity from twitching shakes and mild disorientation, to full blown grand mal seizures that are frightening to witness and devastating to endure.

Once, epilepsy was thought to be a mental illness, but of course now we know better, and treatments are available to help smooth the neurological electrical pathways that control human movement.

This is where new technology gets exciting.

Pacemakers for the heart have been part of the landscape for a while now, and new breakthroughs in Nano-technology mean that the devices designed to keep our heart beating are even tinier and more efficient than ever before, but the Neuropace is placed directly into the brain, attached to the skull.

It sounds terrifying to some, but this is a remarkable piece of kit.

There are a number of similarities between a heart pacemaker and a brain pacemaker.

Instead of regulating heartbeats, however, this device can stop epileptic seizures before they begin. The Neuro pace works like this; as soon as the electrical signals sent by the brain start miss-firing, the Neuropace detects the disruption and sends electrical pulses that counteract the activity. It ‘resets’ the electrical messages, thus preventing the uncontrolled seizure.

This is perfect for patients who have problems taking the heavy duty medication currently on offer, and is far less destructive to the brain than some of the neurosurgery currently in use for this condition.

Up until this implant was available, sufferers of severe epilepsy would need to undergo operations that cut through and even removed, certain parts of their brains.

That’s why this invention is so incredibly important. The implantation takes about 4 hours, patents are out of hospital the next day. Since the device came online in 2013, more than half of those with the technology have reported a more than 60% decrease in the number of seizures suffered.

It may not sound as good as a 100% decrease, but to Epilepsy sufferers, the fact that these are very early days, and that the results are steadily improving and increasing, amounts to a miracle.

Instagram and twitter may celebrate celebutards, but scientists and inventors are far more worthy of our time and attention. One day, when you need their help, they will be there for you, silent rock stars quietly setting the pace.

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