How Science Is Solving Modern Medicine's Most Perplexing Problem
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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I owe a deep debt of gratitude to numerous patients and researchers who gave unstintingly of their time to share their research, personal experiences, excitement, successes, and disappointments relative to their involvement in the highly promising field of neural prosthetics. The patients, on whom many of the experimental systems discussed in this book have been and are being tested, provided me with immeasurable inspiration. They have...
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The marvel of the human machine unavoidably inspires awe. The coordination within the massive complex of organs that make up our bodies is nothing short of miraculous. While each organ performs its individual function, it also operates in finely tuned concert with the other instruments of the body to create the music of life. The nervous system alone, consisting of billions of neurons, or nerve cells, that allow us to perceive and interact with...
1 Learning to Listen All Over Again
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Michael Pierschalla, an extremely smart, sensitive individual, grew up in the small central Wisconsin city of Wausau. In the autumn of 1974, at the age of 19, he moved 140 miles south to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison, not knowing exactly what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Like a lot of disaffected young people during the Vietnam War era, Pierschalla had an unfocused thirst for...
2 The Body Electric
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In the mid-1700s, electricity was a novelty, its awesome power having been harnessed in a crude way a century earlier—when the static electricity generator was invented—with little improvement in the interim. And without batteries, only small amounts of electricity could be stored for short periods of time in a Leyden jar. One of the primary uses of electricity was to entertain the upper crust during parlor games at which people would be literally...
3 Of Frogs’ Legs and Transistors
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The realization that some mighty power, later to be named electricity, can have a dramatic effect on the human body, as when lightning strikes, goes back to the earliest humans. And though the first reasoning beings knew they could be felled by the wrath of the gods, they had no idea electricity was doing the dirty work, nor for that matter, what electricity was.The fact that friction on certain materials causes static electricity and...
4 The Grandfather of Neural Prostheses
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An often-told tale about Giles Brindley might reveal something about the person referred to as the grandfather of neural prostheses. In 1983, the inveterate innovator and self-experimenter stood before a scientific audience and removed his pants. The venue was Las Vegas, Nevada, and the audience that witnessed this occurrence was the membership of the American Urological Association. Brindley was demonstrating, quite graphically, the success...
5 Accidental Pioneers
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In one of those twists of fate that no one can foresee, a tragic 1959 automobile accident that left a young college freshman unable to move his arms or legs was to later provide a major impetus to the development of neural prostheses and thereby give hope to thousands of other quadriplegics. The victim of the accident was Jim Rider, a student at the University of Iowa at the time. Rider hailed from the small farming town of Galesburg,...
6 Giving a Hand
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His real name is Jim Jatich, but he might well be called Mr. Electrode, since he has probably had more electrodes implanted in his body than any human in history—by his count, 150 to 200, with a maximum of 20 at anyone time. This has involved approximately ten surgeries over more than twenty-six years, and still counting. And Jatich is almost jovial about it. Rather than an imposition, an inconvenience, or a painful experience, he...
7 Looking Back at an Empty Wheelchair
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Jennifer S. French walked down the aisle at her wedding. There is, of course, nothing unusual about that, unless one considers the fact that she is a quadriplegic. The story of Jennifer’s trip to the altar, made possible by the electrodes implanted in her legs, began on March 13, 1998—Friday the Thirteenth, to be exact. The moon was full, and French, then 26 years old and an accomplished snowboarder, was enjoying night boarding at a New...
8 The Dirty Little Secret
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‘‘One of the things about spinal cord injury is that everybody sees the outside, as far as you’ve lost the ability to use your legs, but they don’t realize—and it’s really demoralizing—that you’ve lost the ability to go to the bathroom like a normal person, or to even have any feeling to know that you have to go to the bathroom, and having accidents in your pants all the time. It’s something you don’t talk about except with other people who...
9 Sound in the Brain
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Marilyn Davidson lives in a neat, unassuming garden apartment complex in Anaheim, California, not far from Disneyland. At the ground-floor front door to her apartment are two doorbells, one of which has a sign above it reading, ‘‘Please push this bell.’’ When one does, there is no sound, but through a front window a visitor can see a light flash inside. Davidson, who was born in 1932, walks briskly to answer the door, despite the fact that...
10 In the Eye of the Beholder
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In a small, windowless room chockablock with ophthalmic equipment at the Doheny Eye Institute on the University of Southern California’s Medical Center Campus in Los Angeles, a slight, 76-year-old woman sits in a chair facing a blank wall. Although the room is dark, she is wearing a pair of a pair of sunglasses as well as a patch over her left eye. Connie Schoeman is totally blind, yet she is able to tell biomedical engineer Arup Roy whenever she sees a square-shaped light image appear on...
11 Nerves of Platinum and Iridium
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The electrode is the business end, and it could be argued, the most important part of any neural prosthetic system. It is, in essence, the nerves of these devices, or more precisely that which replaces or bypasses nonfunctioning nerves. There is a wide range of electrodes that differ by function and type. There are those that record from nerves and others that inject electrical charges into them. They provide auditory, visual, or motor...
12 Pins and Needles in the Brain
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The entire field of neural prostheses involves placing manmade objects in the body to interface with the nervous system. And in the order of things, the brain is the crowning confluence of the nervous system. It is where the nervous system begins and ends. The brain originates signals to enable thought and movement, and it receives signals from every sensory organ in the body—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin—and sorts them into...
13 From the Inside Out
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Scott Hamel is an automotive teaching assistant, who at 140 pounds held the bench press record for his weight class in New York State at one time by lifting almost twice his weight. Hamel also drives drag racers and owns his own drag race team. And he is a paraplegic, paralyzed in an automobile accident in 1977, when he was a junior in high school. But is he concerned about the danger involved in barreling down a drag strip at 200 miles per...
14 Reaching the Depth of Depression
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In a miraculous instant, a veterinarian who, because of Parkinson’s disease, cannot stand on her own and whose hands shake so badly she has been unable to work is restored to almost normal movement. In that instant, the electrodes implanted deep within her brain are turned on, causing a charge of electricity to obviate her symptoms. Another implanted Parkinson’s patient finds that with his stimulator turned on, ‘‘the tremors aren’t even in existence any more, and my balance is...
15 A Hole in the Center of the Brain
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The eventual answer to Alzheimer’s disease may be a chip in the brain. The same chip may also restore the lost capability to form and recover memories in those who have suffered brain damage from stroke or disease. At least that will be the case if Theodore W. Berger, director of the Center for Neural Engineering and a professor of biomedical engineering and neuro-science at the University of Southern California, has his way. Berger has been...
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Throughout history, there have been those who have voiced concerns about virtually every step in man’s relentless quest to control his environment, cure diseases, and generally improve his lot. Yet, for better or worse, nothing has prevented the forward march of technology. The industrial revolution brought more goods to more people, along with sweatshops. Unleashing the awesome power of atomic fission brought relatively...
17 Biomimetic and Superhuman
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Medical advancements by their very nature usually move at a glacial pace. Eureka moments are few and far between in the laboratory, and even when they occur, it takes years to move them out into the world of medical practice. Much more frequently, progress in medical technology involves years of research and development and one small step forward at a time, with each step built incrementally on a foundation painstakingly set...
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Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2006