This article in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience is interesting in the sense that they are do human brain stimulation of the hypothalamus, for the treatment of cluster headaches – but they then do positron emission tomography (PET) to examine the downstream neural circuits responsible for the abolition of the perception of headache.
This moves the field of brain stimulation from simple stimulate-and-see-what-happens, towards more of a study of human neural circuitry and how stimulation drives activity in connected locations. It’s possible this will lead, in the future, to better and more focal stimulation protocols, as people figure out what the “circuit-level” phenomena are that correct particular aspects of neural dysfunction. Perhaps someday we will have a map of the “hot spots” where stimulation of a small chunk of matter can modulate a wide degree of neural circuitry for the better.
(Last year, Helen Mayberg and colleagues’ deep-brain-stimulation-and-depression paper got at this issue as well, in which they stimulate the cingulate and (perhaps surprisingly) sent depressed patients into remission, and furthermore changed the activity of frontal structures from the abnormal state, back to a more normal pattern of activity.)
These studies are perhaps setting a good precedent for brain-stimulating neuroclinicians to follow.