BrainTalk

Treating the criminally insane and further adventures in psychiatry and mental health care

Shooting Electricity Into Your Brain

Ten fun facts

*  Electricity was known to the ancients, the difficulty lay in generating and harnessing it. Greek, Roman and Egyptian physicians farmed pools of electric eels and thought the electrified water therapeutic. 

* In the first century, Roman physician Scribonus Largus applied electric eels to the head of Emporer Claudius in an attempt to cure the magistrate’s migraine headaches.

* As a way to generate epileptic seizures, physicians Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini working in Rome in the 1930’s, applied strong electric current to the heads of a mentally ill patients, causing the patients to have convulsions. This was the beginning of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

* It was thought that epilepsy protected a person from schizophrenia. That’s why Cerletti and Bini wanted to generate seizures.

* Cerletti and Bini worked out the correct dose of electricity to run through a person’s head by experimenting on pigs at a Rome slaughterhouse. Thousands of animals died.

* Cerletti later injected mentally persons with a suspension of “electro-shocked” pig brains thought to contain a “vitalizing” substance called “agro-agonines” (Greek for extreme struggle.) His results were “encouraging.”

* In 1927 Julius Wagner-Jauregg, a psychiatrist and later Nazi sympathizer, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for generating seizures in mentally ill people by injecting them with live malaria parasites to generate epileptic fits.

* Currently, Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) in which a pacemaker type device is implanted near the base of the neck to stimulate the vagus nerve, is used for treatment resistant depression.

* Also, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a procedure in which electrodes are implanted in the brain and connected to a pulsing device in the chest. World-wide, sixty thousand people use this to treat Parkinson’s Disease. It being tested for depression.

* More currently, a Do-it-Yourself home method for shooting electricity into your brain has developed. Using two AA batteries applied to small wet pads on your temples, low dose electricity is applied for twenty minutes once of twice a day for thirty to forty five days. This is called Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES).

 

Richard Brown, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, says he’s used CES on 400 severely depressed patients with more than a 70% of them find relief. “I’m seeing some patients smile for the first time in 20 years.”

Dr. Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University and a pioneer in brain imaging says, “It’s not a great idea to be exposing your brain to electricity of any type without  medical supervision.”

 

What you think? I’ll post your replies at a later date.

Stephen Seager, M.D. is a psychiatrist and author of Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: Living with the Criminally Insane, which comes out this fall.

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