To treat a knee scrape, people often put a band-aid on it. Or, to relieve back pain, people may use an ice pack. While these examples involve anatomical regions that people can easily locate and treat, this is not always the case with all aspects of anatomy. For instance, to observe the brain, which is contained within the human skull, more complex equipment and precise computational analysis is required. In fact, the functions of many brain regions have yet to be determined and are still actively being explored and examined by neuroscientists today. However, scientists have made a lot of progress in recent years. Neuroimaging research has identified the functions of various brain regions, which has helped us better understand the brain and potential regions that are responsible for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
Patients that are diagnosed with Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease have degenerating neurons, or nerve cells, in a specific part of the brain called the basal ganglia. Neurons in the basal ganglia are responsible for allowing movements to be executed and controlled. As a result, patients with Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease often experience symptoms related to movement disorders, which become more severe the longer they persist. Specifically, patients with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty moving, while patients with Huntington’s disease have difficulty controlling involuntary movements. Both of these diseases make performing simple motor tasks, such as grabbing a cup on a table, difficult, and these types of symptoms can be debilitating if left untreated.
Recently, a medical procedure that combines an understanding of the brain and engineering was developed to relieve these symptoms. A procedure called Pallidal Deep Brain Stimulation has been used to reduce the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. During this procedure, an electrode is implanted in a specific brain region that is related to the disease. For example, to treat a patient with Huntington’s disease, an electrode is implanted in the globus pallidus, a part of the basal ganglia that has been affiliated with motor disorders, and sends electrical stimulation to this region. A recent study showed that this procedure is effective in reducing involuntary movements in Huntington’s Disease patients.
Thus, advances in engineering and neuroscience have improved human health. Techniques such as pallidal deep brain stimulation are evidence that restoring brain functions may be an effective approach to relieving symptoms from neurodegenerative diseases. Moreover, as technologies continue to improve, it may be possible to use artificial intelligence to personalize treatments and surgical procedures in the brain. The precise locations of specific brain regions vary slightly from person to person, so machines may be helpful in quickly identifying these regions during surgery. This is only one example of how scientific fields can collaborate to improve the quality of human health. Nevertheless, research in these areas has improved our understanding of the brain and has brought us another step closer to finding cures for neurological diseases.