A huge leap has been made in the battle against a number of mental illnesses. Scientists are now able to use lasers to help burn away the parts of the brain that are affected by the illness. Now this is very different from the 1930s, when doctors infamously used lobotomies to treat aggressive, demented, or otherwise affected people. These treatments didn't work at all, but the doctors who thought of them may have been onto something.
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The part of the brain that most of the studies have focused on is the anterior cingulate cortex. Sound confusing? Wired explains:
“It lies at the intersection of our cognitive brain and emotional part of our brains,” says Sameer Sheth, a Columbia University Medical Center surgeon who performs psychosurgeries targeting OCD.
This is the part of the brain that also helps us to focus on what we are doing, so that will likely cause some problems. However, this is a particularly effective treatment to OCD, which sometimes forces people to complete a particular task. “There are really severe cases of OCD where people are incapacitated by their intrusive thoughts and rituals,” says James Wilcox, a biological psychiatrist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “It’s one of the few areas where psychosurgery is still done.”
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Of course, not everyone who has mental illness or OCD will qualify for this somewhat risky procedure. First, the patient’s symptoms will be taken into account, as they must cross a certain threshold of severity to even quality for insurance coverage, measured on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale. Their symptoms also must be resistant to pharmaceuticals and cognitive behavioral therapy before surgery would ever be an option. This means that very few, about 20% of OCD sufferers, will quality. Far fewer than that will decide to get the surgery.