Wireless Device Might Wring Out Ringing in the Ears

Scientists prove vagus-nerve stimulation can reverse tinnitus in rats and plan to apply wireless stimulators to humans

4 min read

19 January 2011—Scientists say they can cure tinnitus—persistent ringing in the ears—by pairing certain tones with stimulation of a nerve in the neck.

Tinnitus is caused by noise damage to the sensory cells in the inner ear, or cochlea. This damage results in changes to the organization of the brain’s auditory cortex, a region that contains a "frequency map" of sounds. Damage to the inner ear causes a portion of this map to take over other parts of the cortex, causing the ringing.

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Today’s Robotic Surgery Turns Surgical Trainees Into Spectators

Medical training in the robotics age leaves tomorrow's surgeons short on skills

10 min read
Photo of an operating room. On the left side of the image, two surgeons sit at consoles with their hands on controls. On the right side, a large white robot with four arms operates on a patient.

The dominant player in the robotic surgery industry is Intuitive Surgical, which has more than 6,700 da Vinci machines in hospitals around the world. The robot’s four arms can all be controlled by a single surgeon.

Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images
Blue

Before the robots arrived, surgical training was done the same way for nearly a century.

During routine surgeries, trainees worked with nurses, anesthesiologists, and scrub technicians to position and sedate the patient, while also preparing the surgical field with instruments and lights. In many cases, the trainee then made the incision, cauterized blood vessels to prevent blood loss, and positioned clamps to expose the organ or area of interest. That’s often when the surgeon arrived, scrubbed in, and took charge. But operations typically required four hands, so the trainee assisted the senior surgeon by suctioning blood and moving tissue, gradually taking the lead role as he or she gained experience. When the main surgical task was accomplished, the surgeon scrubbed out and left to do the paperwork. The trainee then did whatever stitching, stapling, or gluing was necessary to make the patient whole again.

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