Psychiatrists are also finding uses for [implant] technology. At the University of Bonn in Germany, Dr. Thomas Schlaepfer is using the implant to treat severe depression. Instead of the movement centers, Schlaepfer’s treatment targets the brain’s reward centers, taking depression as a malfunction of the neurological reward mechanism. “I really think that brain stimulation in psychiatry is the biggest revolution in the last 50 years,” he says, “because it offers some hope for patients who had little or nothing to hope for.”
Schlaepfer makes a point of saying he’s trying to restore the brain to normal function, but it’s not the only place his research could go. He admits that a less ethical scientist could use the device to create a state of constant reward, something he calls “heroin in electrical form.” It wouldn’t be useful in treating depression, but it would be as simple as reprogramming the device, and it would take just half an hour in a doctor’s office.