A “pacemaker for the brain” to help slow Alzheimer’s and retrieve memories is all over the news right now. Researchers used Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) on a man back in 2003 that seemed to unlock old memories. This led them to think about the memory loss in an Alzheimer’s brain, and if this method could perhaps help those inflicted with this disease. “Implanting electrodes into the brain isn’t new” says USA Today article, but it’s new for the Alzheimer’s brain.
The potential for science curing Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other diseases is encouraging and even exciting, but the idea of putting electrodes in the brain to cure a sick brain, while it does have merits, seems a little backwards. This endeavor highlights two things:
1. How incredibly amazing our bodies and brains are. The Alzheimer’s brain is a sick brain. The beta amyloid plaques and tangles are our brain’s response to something not right. Our body knows why the plaque builds up, but scientists do not.
2. How science and the medical profession is so focused on easing our symptoms rather than finding the root cause of our physical maladies. It seems a new drug, or an electrode in this case, is the focus rather than preventing the disease in the first place.
Now I realize some people are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and other diseases, but for the most part, drug therapies are being promoted for just about everything. In fact, drugs to “fix” our symptoms are so prevalent and profitable, that I would imagine curing our diseases would not be a smart business move. So I don’t know — are there more folks working on preventing and curing diseases or on developing responses to diseases?
There’s a lot of talk lately on inflammation and how it could be the root cause of many diseases, and I’ve heard that Alzheimer’s is “inflammation of the brain.” So when I think of the electrodes being implanted in a brain, I picture a car battery that needs to be jumped, but the terminals are full of gunk. We can jump the car through the gunk, or we can clean off the gunk and start the car on it’s own.
I hope more people are working to clear the gunk rather than working on making more jumper cables.
* Disclaimer: I do not mean to offend anyone currently on a drug therapy — drugs are needed and helpful in many cases. I just hope we are focused on curing diseases rather than just managing their symptoms.