Ever heard the saying ‘laughter is the best medicine?’ What if it was the best medicine for brain surgery? It sounds farfetched, but neuroscientists have found that when they electrically stimulate one area of the brain, a person laughs and then feels an immediate calm. Its all due to a focal pathway they discovered in the brain. To test their theories, they performed this procedure on test candidates, and the results were incredible.
The Emory University School of Medicine is behind this groundbreaking study. An epileptic patient was undergoing monitoring for seizures when they discovered the effects of stimulation. Expanding on the finds from this patient, they applied it two days later when conducting brain surgery. The results showed that by stimulating a specific area of the brain, it had a transformative influence on the person. Patients must be awake so doctors can talk and communicate with them to ensure that there is no altercation in their mental status.
Undergoing brain surgery is scary for most patients. Even if a person is not generally anxious, stimulating this focal pathway brings a calming effect. To the person who is suffering from anxiety, it can help them to relax during the procedure. For the patient that is extremely anxious, doctors may have stumbled on the way to calm them so that they can reduce the risk during surgery. An anxious patient is dangerous because they must remain awake during these procedures, and it brings significant challenges to the surgeon.
The procedure has been dubbed cingulum stimulation. It makes patients in brain surgery feel happy and relaxed, so what can it do to the person who suffers from treatment-resistant panic and anxiety? Deep brain stimulation has been studied for mental health for decades. When it comes to depression and anxiety disorders, this is the first concrete evidence that a device can stimulate these pathways and may be more beneficial than medication.
The focal pathway is right underneath the cortex in the brain. It curves and rests near the midbrain area. The cingulum bundle is shaped like a belt, and complex emotional responses are connected in this region. By probing this area, it has the power to control extensive networks throughout the brain. Another study was conducted later with two patients that had anxiety and chronic pain disorders. Both patients felt relief in their symptoms, though one did have a delayed recall on a verbal learning task list.
Using cingulum stimulation in this focal pathway may be the answer to the mental health community needs. For surgeons performing brain operations, it can mean fewer complications from a nervous patient.