Every day, lives are changed at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford by cutting-edge research into the most complex and precious part of the human body: the brain.
Dr Aarti Jagannath, herself a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, discovers how revolutionary operations carried out by neurosurgeons at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford can change the lives of patients with Parkinson’s and help patients living with chronic life-limiting pain, walk freely again. She also discovers how research conducted in Oxford is helping to make mind control a reality.
Among the patients Dr Jagannath meets is 53 year-old Gary who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s eight years’ ago. His severe shaking means normal life is no longer possible for the former rally driver. Medication that used to give him around 30 minutes of relief from his debilitating tremors has become ineffective. Life with Parkinson’s leaves Gary in a constant state of exhaustion and has robbed him of the simple pleasure of playing with his grandchildren.
Aarti first meets Gary as he’s about to undergo revolutionary surgery carried out by Professor Tipu Aziz, one of the world’s leading experts in functional neurosurgery whose specialism is deep brain stimulation. He’ll implant battery operated electrodes into Gary’s brain that will fire bursts of electricity into a specific area – it’s a life-changing procedure that could eradicate his tremors.
Six weeks after the operation, Gary goes back to see Professor Aziz to have his implant switched on when he’ll learn if the operation has been a success and he can get back to being Grandad again.
Aarti also meets Alice, one of more than four million adults in the UK living with neuropathic pain. Neurosurgeon James Fitzgerald is hoping an implant in the nerves near Alice’s spine will allow her to walk comfortably again for the first time after four long years, during which the gentlest of touches to her right foot has caused agonising pain.
Alice tells Aarti: “Even just the slightest bit of pain gone would be a miracle for me after all this length of time. I’m putting all hope onto this basically.”
The programme also meets the scientist who – in the name of research – had his nervous system linked electronically to his wife’s. Professor Kevin Warwick tells the programme: “Every time she closed her hand, my brain received a pulse via the implant. We communicated for the first time in the world, nervous system to nervous system, the start of thought communication.”
How The NHS Changed Our World – John Radcliffe Hospital – Thursday 7.00pm on BBC2.