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Electricity Could Ease Some Brain Disorders



From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

Modern medicine mainly uses drugs to cure disease. But what if drugs were replaced with electricity? Pacemakers, small machines that doctors place in the body, already use electric signals to help weak hearts beat regularly. And now, scientists are using electricity on the brain to ease the effects of Parkinson's disease. The disease causes uncontrollable shaking.

David Dewsnap has Parkinson's. Medicine did not help him. So, doctors operated on his brain. Inside, they placed a medical device called a Deep Brain Stimulation System. The system is made of thin wires that doctors place in an area of the brain that controls movement. The wires are also connected to a battery pack. It produces electric signals. Mr. Dewsnap could not even take a short walk before doctors wired his brain. Now he can. Mr. Dewsnap says the treatment has given him his life back.

Caleb Kemere is an electrical engineer and brain scientist at Rice University. He has been using brain stimulation in his experiments on rats. He says he knows the treatment works. But he does not know how. Mr. Kemere says the small electric shocks may trick the brain. The shocks copy the work of a brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine helps control movement -- or motor activity. Mr. Kemere wants to develop a brain stimulation system to treat other disorders. The National Science Foundation has given him money for such research. Mr. Kemere believes there could be experimental devices to help people suffering from other brain disorders within five years.

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