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Mind-Controlled Medicine

November 19, 2014

Could brainwaves one day trigger an implant that stops epilepsy and chronic pain episodes before they begin?

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Marc Folcher - ETH Zurich1

A brainwave-triggered implant which could potentially turn on genes controlling the production of therapeutic proteins. (Marc Folcher/ETH Zurich)

Mind-controlled medicine. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Imagine being able to stop an epileptic seizure before it begins. Bioengineer Martin Fussenegger of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich envisions such a future, where medical implants will turn on genes that produce anti-seizure compounds in response to abnormal brainwaves.

MARTIN FUSSENEGGER (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich):

We believe that we can capture the disease-related brainwave pattern just before the seizure and rewire these brainwaves to an implant which would produce a therapeutic compound that would block the seizure.

HIRSHON:

Fussenegger says the devices could also be used to stop bouts of chronic pain before they start. He and his team have already tested their concept by using different types of human brainwaves to control medic al implants in mice. They reported their preliminary findings in the journal Nature Communications. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.