Columbia University is a great place to be a medical student, especially a student interested in neurosurgery. The University hosts a student chapter of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, which brings students together with practicing neurosurgeons to learn about the profession.
These student AANS meetings focus on various topics of the practice of neurosurgery, from certification requirements to operating procedures. Recently Dr. Sameer Sheth treated the students to an overview of the past, present and future of neurosurgery for psychiatric disorders.
Dr. Sheth began by telling the students about the state of neurology in the early 1800s, which is when doctors first hit on the idea that different parts of the brain manage different functions. Until then the brain was generally thought of as a single organ that handled all brain functions as one unit.
Once doctors realized that different parts of the brain handle specialized functions, the development of neurosurgery largely focused on trying to figure out how the brain is structured and which parts manage which functions.
Dr. Sheth took the students from those humble beginnings through the discoveries and innovations that led to the advanced science that psychiatric neurosurgery is today, along with the potential it has for the future.
Today’s psychiatric neurosurgeons are able to work with advanced imaging technology to make maps of a patient’s brain before surgery, without having to open the skull. They can pinpoint the precise area of the brain that is causing distress to the patient.
Dr. Sheth is on the cutting edge of what psychiatric neurosurgeons are able to do today. He specializes in using deep brain stimulation, a technique that involves implanting tiny electrodes into the brain, to control psychiatric problems like severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
As for tomorrow, Dr. Sheth spoke to the students about research that shows deep brain stimulation may soon be useful for treating severe cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia, and perhaps even for memory enhancement.
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