‘This is my only hope now’: What patients think of revolutionary dual brain implant

‘This is my only hope now’: What patients think of revolutionary dual brain implant
Dr. Ahmed Raslan, professor of neurological surgery, demonstrates the placement of a brain implant for patient Amber Pearson/ AFP

In the realm of neuroscience, groundbreaking advancements are continuously unfolding, offering new avenues of hope for individuals grappling with neurological disorders. Recent headlines have been dominated by Elon Musk's Neuralink, heralding the era of brain implants that could potentially enable individuals to control devices through mere thoughts. However, the concept of brain implants and deep-brain stimulation is not a novelty. For decades, researchers and medical practitioners have recognized the potential of precisely applied electrical stimulation to modulate brain activity, with applications ranging from Parkinson's disease to epilepsy. Now, a pioneering development combining deep-brain stimulation for epilepsy with treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is shedding light on a novel therapeutic approach.


One such innovative case involves a patient named Amber Pearson, 34, whose journey underscores the transformative impact of interdisciplinary collaboration and patient-driven innovation. Pearson's struggle with debilitating epileptic seizures led her to seek medical intervention, eventually leading her to the doorsteps of neurosurgeon Ahmed Raslan at Oregon Health and Science University. Raslan's team proposed a 32-millimeter brain implant aimed at detecting and intercepting the neural activity underlying her seizures. However, it was Pearson's astute insight that propelled this endeavor into uncharted territory. Recognizing the coexistence of her epilepsy and OCD, Pearson proposed integrating a solution for her OCD alongside the epilepsy treatment—a suggestion that Raslan and his team embraced wholeheartedly.


Now, Pearson’s repetitive rituals that once consumed her existence are now relegated to the recesses of memory, all thanks to a revolutionary brain implant that tackles both her epilepsy and OCD simultaneously.


“I'm actually present in my daily life, and that's incredible,” Pearson shared with AFP.


The convergence of epilepsy treatment with OCD intervention marks a paradigm shift in neurological therapeutics. Traditionally, deep brain stimulation has been explored as a potential avenue for alleviating OCD symptoms, albeit independently of epilepsy treatment. However, Pearson's case heralds a novel approach, where a single implant is programmed to address the distinctive neural signatures of both epilepsy and OCD. Through meticulous observation and collaboration with Pearson, Raslan's team delineated the neural correlates of her OCD, paving the way for tailored intervention.


Jusoor Post interviewed patients with OCD accompanied by epilepsy or other neurological diseases to gauge their thoughts on using the new chip as a treatment option. Jae, who was recommended deep brain stimulation a decade ago, reflected on the financial barriers he faced. “Ten years ago, when I was assessed and told I would be eligible for deep brain stimulation, the cost was $30,000. Apparently, it was out of my budget, and insurance didn't cover it. Even now, I don't think it's covered,” Krug lamented. However, he expressed optimism about the chip's success, stating, “The success of this chip gives us hope as patients who know the pain and suffering of such chronic disease, that researches begin to pay off and help people to live safer and more comfortable away from the hell of anxiety.”


Carisa, a severe OCD patient with religious obsessions, shared her perspective with Jusoor Post. “You cannot imagine being a Catholic believer with religious OCD. It's hell on earth,” she stated. Despite being able to afford the chip, Carisa expressed reservations, emphasizing the complexity and sensitivity of the brain. “I learned about the chip, and I think I can afford it, but, no thanks,” she said, adding, “The brain is something you don't want to mess around with.”


Tara, who battles with both OCD and Parkinson's disease, closely followed news of the brain implant, hoping it could offer relief. Having witnessed a friend's experience with deep brain stimulation, she remained cautiously optimistic. “I'm tired of having these compulsive thoughts of getting rid of myself. I've become a severe burden on my family,” Tara shared. Despite acknowledging the risks, she expressed her willingness to explore any treatment that could alleviate her suffering. “This is my only hope now. Even if its effect is just to make the psychotherapy more effective,” she concluded.