Magazine

Table: The Body Electric


Devices emitting microshocks and electrical signals are helping patients with more and more kinds of ailments:

EPILEPSY AND DEPRESSION

Electrical pulses hit the vagus nerve in the neck to treat both of these disorders. They're generated by a device implanted in the chest, with wires running up the neck. (Cyberonics)

BLADDER INCONTINENCE

A device in the abdomen pulses the sacral nerve as it emerges from the lower spinal chord, causing the bladder to tighten. (Medtronic, Advanced Neuromodulation, and Boston Scientific's Advanced Bionics unit)

CHRONIC PAIN IN THE BACK OR LEGS

Electrical stimulation of the sacral nerve as it emerges from the lower spinal cord overrides pain impulses. The source is a device implanted in the abdomen. (Medtronic, Advanced Neuromodulation, and Boston Scientific's Advanced Bionics unit)

DEAFNESS

Cochlear implants transmit electrical signals from the inner ear to the brain, which interprets them as sound. An external apparatus is also worn behind the outer ear. (Boston Scientific's Advanced Bionics unit)

MIGRAINE HEADACHES

Electrical pulses are directed to the occipital lobe of the brain. The implant site is at the base of the skull. (Medtronic and Boston Scientific's Advanced Bionics unit)

POST-STROKE PARALYSIS

Embedded in the chest, a device stimulates part of the fibrous membrane surrounding the brain. The voltage is delivered by wires running up the neck and through the skull to a site directly above the area damaged by stroke. (Northstar Neuroscience)

PARKINSON'S DISEASE

Electrical stimulation of the thalamus, deep within the brain, halts otherwise uncontrollable tremors. The device is placed in the chest near the collarbone, with wires running up the neck and through the skull. (Medtronic)


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