This presentation was first placed on the Internet in March 1999.
An entirely new approach to Medical Anesthesia is presented here. No skin penetration is involved and no chemicals of any sort are involved. Rather than introducing strong chemicals into a patient's body, which sometimes have undesired side effects, and which can provide a locus of infection at an injection site, this approach is entirely non-intrusive. The Configuration II system (below) simply convinces the patient's brain into numbing the nerves in a specific limb, by gradually increasing artificial pain signals which arrive at the brain. With such a continuous inundation of incoming nerve sensor information, the brain soon naturally chooses to reduce its sensitivity to signals from that limb. THE PATIENT gradually turns up the "intensity" of the signals going to the brain, causing the brain to more and more limit sensitivity to incoming signals from that limb. A simple dial on the device is marked with an indicator of when the limb is numbed sufficiently for a surgery to occur.
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This process also acts in reverse, where currents that are externally introduced into those sensor coils would have the effect of inducing a signal current within the nerves of the arm. With suitable sensor coil currents, this induced nerve signal current could be exactly equal to and opposite in polarity from (out-of-phase to) the initial nerve signal current. Another law of physics is that the result would be NO net current in the nerve (Configuration 1 output).
This suggests that pain signals during hand surgery might be entirely cancelled out or eliminated in this way. This method could provide extremely localized anesthesia, to individual nerve endings, while not affecting nearby nerve endings! The entire remainder of the patient's body would be completely unaffected.
The same device could be used in an alternate approach to accomplish the same end, local anesthesia without any need for chemicals or skin penetration. A preparatory period of inducing constant artificial discomfort / pain messages to the brain, with gradually increasing amplitude (actually frequency), would encourage the brain to begin to naturally ignore and finally block further pain signals from that limb (Configuration 2).
This much simpler and less expensive configuration would have the effect of a "local anesthesia" where that entire limb would be affected, but again, the remainder of the body would be completely unaffected.
Regarding Parkinson's patients, without actually solving the source problem in the brain, this device's input sensors could sense repetitive muscle activation sequences to limb muscles and selectively cancel them out. The patient would still have Parkinson's, but without the tremors.
Regarding patients with spinal injuries or other severe nerve damage, there are several possible applications. The OUTPUT device could be used with pre-programmed signals to introduce muscle activation signals into a limb, both to accomplish specific movements and to exercise the muscles. This approach would not require the insertion of wires and receivers into muscle tissues, as is now being researched. Another application of the device could be to regularly send (artificial) signals TOWARD the brain, in an effort to encourage the recently discovered natural nerve regeneration processes to develop.
The only element of complexity, in Configurations 2, 3, and 4 is that there is a bundle of neurons that are each carrying separate messages to and from the brain. But this is identical to that submarine cable which had many bundled pairs of telephone wires each carrying separate conversations. Suitable computer processing can separate the individual phone or sensation messages.
Therefore, all of the technology for this device currently exists, and is even very well established and proven regarding performance.
The examples to be described for this theoretical new type of anesthetic procedure are for limb surgeries, hand, wrist, elbow, foot, ankle, and knee and the adjacent bones and structures. Application to more central parts of the body and head may later be possible. Often, a patient is given General Anesthesia for extensive surgical procedures in such limb areas. Even if Local Anesthesia is used, the chemical is generally introduced by injection, which will eventually enter the bloodstream with the possibility of adverse allergic reactions. The proposed electronic anesthetic method may make those chemicals unnecessary, reducing the anesthesia-related dangers to the patient.
The function of an anesthetic is to keep the nerve impulses from pain sensor nerves (nociceptors) from arriving at the brain or being processed by the brain. A number of theories exist as to how traditional chemical anesthetics accomplish this. The transfer of the pain signal from nerve cell to nerve cell at the intervening synapses might be inhibited. A similar effect might be instituted in the brain at signal receptors. The energy generation in individual nerve cells might be reduced. In any event, successful anesthesia keeps the brain from receiving and processing the pain sensations. Unfortunately, General Anesthesia keeps the brain from receiving sensations of any type and from any parts of the body. This may be an unnecessary condition.
In addition, once the pain message arrives at the spinal cord, spinal reflexes are also activated. These reflexes send an immediate response to muscle fibers in the area of the injury. Other reflex reactions also occur that may also contribute to the sensation of pain in the patient. In all cases of these reflexes the initial pain message must travel along the peripheral nerve system to the spinal cord.
This electrical signal does not have a constant amplitude (strength). It fluctuates in amplitude, with the rate of fluctuation being related to the intensity of the pain sensation. For very low-grade sensations, the frequency seems to generally be about 4 to 6 cycles per second. For very acute, intense pain, the frequency can be as high as 50 to 60 cycles per second. It appears that the actual amplitude (strength) of the signal is of minimal importance, as long as it is strong enough to get to the (thalamus in the) brain at the end of its path. The rate of the fluctuation of the amplitude of the electrical signal is the actual information that the brain is waiting to receive and on which it will act.
This represents a variety of "alternating current" that is passing along a conductor (the interneuron) within the arm. The Physics of this necessarily has several consequences.
Any moving electrical current creates a magnetic field in the space surrounding it. A varying current creates changing magnetic fields in that surrounding space. In this case, if we would surround the arm with an array of sensing coils of wire, the changing magnetic fields (due to the fluctuations in amplitude of the electrical current within the various interneuron nerves within the arm) will create even tinier electrical EMFs within each of those surrounding sensing coils.
Notice that nothing intrusive is necessary. No needle or sensor needs to be inserted into the arm, so no locus for later infection is created. The sensing coil apparatus would not actually even have to be in direct contact with the patient's arm!
There appear to be at least three distinct uses of this approach.
This might first seem to increase the electrical activity within the interneuron, but it doesn't. When two opposite currents exist in any electrical circuit, the effect is that they act to tend to cancel each other out, so LESS current is the result.
By suitable choice of amplification, the specific coil placements of each set (input and output), and the distance between the two coil sets, it should be possible to EXACTLY "null out" the initial electrical current of the pain message. There would be no remaining resultant electrical signal to arrive at the synapse at the end of that interneuron. No pain message could arrive at the brain!
In a practical application, it might be necessary for a technician (or a computer circuit) to slightly adjust the amplification stage to precisely cancel out the pain message signal. This could be easily done prior to surgery by preliminary pinpricks in the hand, and verbal feedback from the patient. The entire input and output coil assemblies would be permanently mounted in a sleeve-like structure that would be firmly clamped around the arm to maintain consistent positions of all components. Precise orientation would be very important.
Rather than a technician manually adjusting the device's amplification, it might also be practical to have a third sensing coil assembly farther yet up the arm. Existence of a residual pain signal there could feed a computer circuit that would continuously automatically adjust the device's amplification to keep the signals nulled out.
In the event that a tiny amount of pain signal still occasionally passes through, it might also be possible to artificially ADD a greater amplitude pain signal that had a fluctuation frequency rate of a much less intense pain (as with the Configuration II below). The brain would then receive a pain message of a very minor pain, rather than the (nulled) higher frequency pain message of the intense pain of the surgical procedure.
After a surgery was completed, any of three possibilities could be used. The anesthetic device could be initially reduced in amplification while having the patient indicate the level of discomfort. This would gradually restore the real action of the normal interneuron. If the patient could handle the actual existing pain level, the device could be removed, and there would be no anesthetic recovery period. If, instead, the patient felt too much discomfort, the anesthetic device could remain in place. Either the amplification level would automatically degrade over a pre-set period of time, or an artificial low-pain signal (different frequency) could be introduced to give the brain a subdued pain sensation, as suggested above. The third possibility would be to prescribe conventional chemical painkillers during recuperation.
NOTE: The actual situation is quite a bit more complex than this. Instead of a single neuron carrying a signal, a whole bundle of neurons carry separate signals. This results in dipole, quadrupole, octopole, and higher modes of the magnetic fields created surrounding the arm. The sensing coil array needs to have enough component sensing coils to record this intricacy of signal, and the attached computer/recorder must have enough signal channels to handle all of that signal complexity. However, without having to actually process or analyze or even understand individual components of such complex EMF signals, it should be possible to amplify and invert all of them, to create the desired opposite polarity current(s) in the many neurons, to null out the pain signal.
It is based on a well-known characteristic of the brain. When you cut your finger, there is maybe 15 seconds of extremely intense pain. Then, the sensation of pain subsides. If the cut is not of extreme severity, the pain sensation is entirely gone by 15 minutes later. The pain-sensor neurons actually continue to send signals to the brain, but the brain elects to gradually block those continuing pain signals. The message has already been received, and acted on, and the continued reception of those intense pain signals would inhibit the body from recognizing and dealing with stimuli in other locations of the body. This Configuration II of the device is meant to provide a continuous "flood" of pain-signal information to the brain, in a gradually intensifying amplitude program. The brain then uses its normal procedure of blocking those signals from being processed, thereby producing the effect of local anesthetic for that limb.
In this configuration, the input sensing coil assembly would probably not be necessary. The whole device could be far more primitive than in Configuration I above. Only a simple output coil assembly would be placed around the arm. For a number of minutes prior to a surgery, that output coil would be supplied with a alternating current source which had an initial frequency of, say, 3 cycles per second. This action would induce a very low-grade discomfort signal in ALL of the interneurons within the arm. The brain would be inundated by this continuous and monotonous mild pain sensation, both by the length of time that we supplied those pulses and by the fact that many parallel interneurons would each be supplying similar low-grade discomfort sensations to the brain. In general, the brain's response to such a pattern is to desensitize itself to those incoming signals, partly so it is not overwhelmed and partly so that it will be available to respond to other potential sensations anywhere else in the body.
As desired, the patient would gradually increase the frequency of the artificial pain signal impulses, to encourage the brain to even more completely block processing of signals from that limb.
The Configuration II setup can be extremely simple. A "bracelet" or actually a "doughnut-shaped" ring around six inches in diameter would be the form. Thin copper wire would be wound around the one inch diameter cross section of the doughnut, always in the same direction. Several hundred turns of wire could therefore be easily wound. (This is a different orientation of the coils from the windings of a motor or a solenoid.) A low frequency alternating current (variable from 3 Hz to 50 Hz) would be fed into the coil. The physics of this orientation would induce longitudinal alternating electric currents through the doughnut's opening, therefore, along the interneurons in the arm.
The frequency chosen would determine the level of discomfort/pain sensed by the brain. A frequency of 3 Hz should be initially used, with THE PATIENT gradually increasing the frequency as the brain progressively blocks stronger and stronger pain signals. Once the patient can have the frequency set at 20 Hz, there should be virtually no sensation of any sort from that hand, whether tactile, pressure, temperature, or needle penetration. As necessary, the frequency could continue to be increased to accomplish whatever deadening is necessary.
This configuration is by far the least complicated to build. The only variable open to research is the voltage of the pulses sent to the coils. Variations of that voltage would not affect the intensity of any pain sensations. It merely needs to be strong enough to induce the desired electric current in the interneurons in the arm.
For Configuration II, it seems that a fixed frequency, continuous alternating current signals might gradually sufficiently numb the brain's reaction to nerves in that specific limb. In the event that the effect is less than desired, it would be possible to gradually increase the frequency of our alternating current. Effectively, that would gradually give the brain the sensation that the level of pain was continually getting greater. The brain will certainly act to keep itself from being overloaded, and the way it will do that is by reducing its own sensitivity to those specific nerve signals.
The patient would likely feel no pain at any point, but rather just a low grade discomfort. As the artificial frequency gradually increases to the high frequency range, the brain will have gradually almost eliminated any sensations from that arm and hand. Surgery could be performed as necessary. After the surgery, the device could be removed, allowing the normal brain processing of signals from that area to gradually recover their original sensitivity. If that results in too much pain, then either chemical pain killers or a continuing operation of the device would be appropriate. If the device is to be used in such post-operative situations, the frequency would probably be ramped-down which would allow the brain to gradually regain its sensitivity for those nerves at a pre-set rate.
Again, as in the first configuration, nothing intrusive penetrates the skin, so there is no danger of chemical reactions or of later infections from a point of needle penetration.
There seems to be an additional feature of these methods of anesthesia that may or may not be considered an advantage. Blood flow and all other functions would not be affected. Where chemical anesthesia has widespread effects where all body systems are degraded, these two methods narrowly target the passage of the pain signal to the brain, with no other apparent effects on other body functions like circulation.
This is actually an opposite application of Configuration II above. The pain modification usages are meant to cancel out or create new designed pain messages that are going toward the brain. This application would be in pre-recording the brain's instructional messages for various muscles to accomplish different tasks. This configuration would therefore be intended to affect signals going outward from the brain to the muscles.
Later, the computer would be instructed to supply the output coil assembly with one of the recorded EMF signal patterns. When that set of signals created its complex magnetic field around the arm, that should create induced currents in the various interneurons within the arm, that are duplicates of the signals that the brain would have sent. If that is accurately the case, the appropriate muscles would be activated as desired.
Rather than the brain supplying the complex signal pattern to activate all of the necessary muscle cells, the computer would have supplied them, at the location of the arm. The result should be the same, a finger or joint movement exactly as though the brain had instructed it.
The first of these two usages would not actually correct any existing damage, but would allow a patient a semblance of mobility. All movements accomplished would not involve the brain at all. The second usage would be in supplying repetitive nerve signals to the damaged areas, to possibly actually contribute toward nerve regeneration.
This effect should be possible even though the believed source of Parkinson's and the tremor phenomenon is in the brain.
My research is at a state where a prototype system could be built. The cost of this prototype, and the following diagnostic research would be very nominal. The least expensive would be for Configuration II, and the efficacy of the device seems assured. The prototype device itself would certainly cost less than $10,000, with final devices far less. Research on the most effective orientation and position and number of the input and output coils is the primary aspect that needs development, to maximize the performance of this device. A pain signal travels to the brain at up to 300 miles per hour. The computer/amplifier that processes our signals have a certain necessary time for doing its processing, and additional delay in creating the output signal may be added. These two effects should probably be matched, such that the output signal could be applied to exactly the same initially sampled pain message, at an appropriate distance up the arm. (The message would have progressed a certain number of centimeters up the arm while the amplifier was doing its processing). This configuration should also minimize any potential system feedback.
It appears that an approach as described here (such as 'I') should be effective, in sensing and then nulling out electrical signals while they are passing along the axon of the interneuron cells. An alternative might be to try this influence at a synapse or a node of Ranvier instead. Electrically, there would seem to be advantages in those location but logistically it seems problematical because of the unique patterns of external magnetic fields that would exist surrounding those loci. The greatest value in attempting this process along an interneuron's axon (where the myelin sheath was continuous) is that the geometrical configuration is extremely similar at the locations where the sensor assembly and output assembly are located.
I feel certain that this research (for Configuration II) could be completely carried out in less than three months. As a research project at a Medical School, student volunteers could be used to give verbal feedback on the sensations felt from various temperature, pressure and pinprick stimuli of the hand. No intrusive or destructive or lasting effects would occur to any such volunteers. For a Configuration II apparatus, volunteers could simply indicate the level of de-sensitization with time, and their impression of the feeling due to the artificial signal.
My desire is that a public or private medical research institution will have interest in investigating this device. As a Physicist, I know that the laws of Physics appear to make all of the parts of this theory solidly based. It remains to experimentally confirm the effectiveness of this method of non-chemical anesthetic.
Research on this configuration would be likely to determine exactly where a single small sensor coil and an output coil could be placed to accomplish this cancellation of signal. That might suggest that a Parkinson's patient could have a minimal clothing sleeve to wear that would unobtrusively include the necessary components.
A related area of modern research (late 2007)
The possibility of full communication with animals? No prisons or schools?
Carl Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago