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A DBS or Deep Brain Stimulator is a type of neuroprosthetic implant. As the name suggests, it is buried deep inside the brain, with its electrodes exposed against the neurons of a specific brain region, usually in the mid brain, below the cerebral cortex.

As such inserting DBS devices is a very delicate procedure. A great deal of comprehensive neuroimaging is conducted prior to placement, and usually involves taking the imaging data and transferring it into a medical virtual reality environment such that the surgeon can see the brain structures of that individual in 3D, and determine the best path through the brain to take. Every incision is going to result in scar tissue build-up and a corresponding loss of function in the areas directly adjacent to the cut.

The DBS device itself is primarily a neurostimulator. It is paired with an external neuroimaging device that monitors the brain activity in the area the DBS implant was placed into. If the activity in that area spikes abnormally, the external device triggers the DBS to fire, and the DBS sends out an electrical signal overriding the signals of all neurons in the immediate area. It effectively temporarily halts all activity in that region.

DBS devices are thus considered brain pacemakers. They don't read brain activity as such, but rely on an external device to do that. Their job is to quell activity dangerous to the individual. The classic use of course being a last-ditch method for dealing with crippling epileptic seizures. The DBS device triggers when the external imaging device detects a build-up towards a seizure, and the DBS device wipes that out, preventing the seizure from occurring in the first place.

DBS devices are increasingly being used in a variety of other medical treatments other than epilepsy, when a precursor signal has been identified. Reset the precursor, and the attack never occurs. It doesn't fix the problem, but it does manage it.

For obvious reasons, a DBS's power supply is not deep in the brain with it, but connected via wiring in the insertion channel, to the outside of the brain or even the outside of the scalp. The last thing the patient needs is for the surgeon to have to fish the device out to change the battery.

Deep Brain Stimulators are not interface devices. They lack the finesse to interface with neurons individually, and will instead blast thousands or even tens of thousands of neurons at once. However, they are neurostimulator devices, and their continued development produces a great deal of research that is very valuable indeed in our quest to create stimulators that have a much higher degree of finesse. It is these devices after all, that will eventually make the concept of 'learning via direct download' a reality.

See Also: Neural Imaging, Brain Computer Interface, Brain Machine Interface, Neuroprosthetic, Neurofeedback, Neural Oscillation, Brainwave Baseline, Neuroenhancement

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