IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


3rd July, 2024 Health


Source: IndianExpress

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  • Oran Knowlson, a teenager from the UK, became the first person to receive a brain implant specifically designed to control epileptic seizures.
  • This deep brain stimulation (DBS) device has significantly reduced his daytime seizures by 80%.



  • Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by recurring seizures.
  • Seizures can manifest as jerking movements, temporary confusion, staring spells, or stiff muscles, caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
  • Treatment-resistant epilepsy affects a significant portion of patients, for whom conventional therapies do not work effectively.
  • Symptoms:Jerking of arms and legs, temporary confusion, staring spells, stiff muscles.
  • Causes:In about 50% of cases, no identifiable cause is found. Possible causes include head trauma, brain tumors, infections (like meningitis), or genetics.
  • Impact:Increases the risk of accidents, drownings, and falls. In India, between 3 and 11.9 per 1,000 people suffer from epilepsy. About 30% of patients are resistant to existing treatments.

Treatment for Epilepsy

  • First-Line Treatments:Anti-seizure medications and ketogenic diet (high in fats, low in carbohydrates) which can reduce seizures even in treatment-resistant cases.
  • Surgical Options:
    • Brain Surgery:Removing the seizure-originating brain portion.
    • Corpus Callosotomy:Cutting the part connecting both brain hemispheres to prevent abnormal signal travel.


  • DBS Effectiveness:Current devices reduce seizures by around 40%.
  • Surgical Effectiveness:Seizures can drop by nearly 90% with surgery.
  • Use Cases for DBS:Recommended for patients with seizures originating from multiple brain parts or when drugs and diet fail.

Cost Considerations

  • DBS Devices:Cost about Rs 12 lakh, with additional surgical costs raising the total to around Rs 17 lakh.
  • Brain Surgery:Costs between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000.

Device Mechanism: Neurostimulator

  • Function:Delivers constant electrical impulses to the brain to disrupt or block abnormal seizure-causing signals.
  • Structure:A 3.5 cm square device, 0.6 cm thick, implanted in the skull and anchored with screws. Electrodes are inserted into the brain, reaching the thalamus (a relay station for motor and sensory information) and connected to the neurostimulator.
  • Operation:Activated after the patient recovers from surgery. The device can be recharged wirelessly.

Brain implants

  • Brain implants, also known as neural implants, are devices that connect directly to the brain's cortex or other regions to help restore or enhance neural function.
  • Early Research:Initial experiments in the mid-20th century focused on deep brain stimulation (DBS) for treating neurological disorders.
  • Technological Advances:Improvements in materials, miniaturization, and computing power have significantly advanced implant technology.

Types of Brain Implants

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

  • Function:Used to treat movement disorders like Parkinson's disease, dystonia, and essential tremor.
  • Mechanism:Electrodes implanted in specific brain regions deliver electrical impulses to modulate neural activity.
  • Application for Epilepsy:Although DBS has been used for childhood epilepsy before, the novelty lies in the implant being placed directly in the brain rather than in the chest with wires running to the brain.

Cochlear Implants

  • Function:Restore hearing for individuals with severe hearing loss.
  • Mechanism:Electrodes implanted in the cochlea stimulate auditory nerve fibers in response to sound.

Retinal Implants

  • Function:Restore vision for individuals with certain types of blindness.
  • Mechanism:Electrode arrays implanted in the retina stimulate retinal cells to produce visual signals.

Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs)

  • Function:Enable direct communication between the brain and external devices, such as prosthetic limbs or computers.
  • Mechanism:Electrodes record brain activity, which is interpreted by algorithms to control external devices.


  • Neurological Disorders:Treatment of Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, chronic pain, and depression.
  • Sensory Restoration:Hearing (cochlear implants) and vision (retinal implants).
  • Memory:Research into implants that could enhance memory recall.
  • Learning:Potential future applications in accelerating learning processes.
  • Brain Function Studies:Understanding brain activity and neural pathways.
  • Neuroplasticity:Studying how the brain adapts to implants and changes in response to them.

Human Brain

  • The brain is the central organ of the human nervous system, responsible for cognition, emotion, sensory processing, motor control, and regulation of bodily functions.
  • Divided into several regions, each with specialized functions interconnected through a network of neurons and glial cells.

Anatomy of the Brain

Major Divisions

  • Forebrain:Includes the cerebral cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, and limbic system.
  • Midbrain:Coordinates sensory information and motor responses.
  • Hindbrain:Contains the cerebellum, pons, and medulla oblongata, regulating vital functions like breathing and heart rate.

Cerebral Cortex

  • Function:Responsible for higher cognitive functions such as thinking, memory, perception, and voluntary movements.
  • Structure:Divided into four lobes - frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital - each associated with specific functions.

Limbic System

  • Function:Involved in emotions, memory formation, and motivation.
  • Components:Includes the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus.


  • Function:Connects the brain to the spinal cord and controls basic functions like breathing, heartbeat, and swallowing.

Neural Networks and Communication

  • Neurons:Basic units of the brain, responsible for transmitting electrical and chemical signals.
  • Synapses:Junctions between neurons where communication occurs through neurotransmitters.
  • Neuroplasticity:The brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.

Brain Functions

Sensory Processing

  • Vision:Occipital lobe interprets visual signals.
  • Audition:Temporal lobe processes auditory information.
  • Somatosensation:Parietal lobe integrates tactile sensations.

Motor Control

  • Primary Motor Cortex:Initiates voluntary movements.
  • Basal Ganglia and Cerebellum:Coordinate movement and maintain balance.

Cognitive Functions

  • Memory:Hippocampus plays a key role in forming and retrieving memories.
  • Language:Broca's area (speech production) and Wernicke's area (language comprehension).
  • Executive Functions:Frontal lobe manages reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving.

Brain Health and Disorders

  • Neurological Disorders:Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy.
  • Mental Health Disorders:Depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders.
  • Brain Injuries:Traumatic brain injury (TBI) impacts cognitive and motor functions.




Q: Evaluate the potential benefits and ethical challenges associated with brain implant technology. Discuss the role of brain implants in medical advancements and their implications for privacy and security. (150 Words)