tv America Tonight Al Jazeera August 19, 2015 2:30am-3:01am EDT
see you again in an hour. the disease is crippling. why are you wearing gloves. >> i don't want to touch anything i don't have to. >> reporter: a compulsive mental condition that shuts her off from the world. >> i couldn't kiss or hug her. failed. >> you're going to hear a little noise, a drilling sound. it does not hurt. >> reporter: now a now brain grip. >> it's possible for me to be happy. it could happen when does a medical miracle go too far. >> we have to decide if this intervention is limited to diseases or whether we extend it further
an "america tonight" special, rewiring the brain. it's called deep brain stimulation, and could be a game changer for millions of americans that suffer severe psychiatric continues. it has proven gective for diseases like -- effective for diseases like parkinson's, now doctors are probing deeper, stimulating parts of the brains that can change thoughts and moves, and even behaviour. "america tonight" has an exclusive look as a patient crip ed by obsessive compulsive disorder under goes the surgery, hoping electrodes implanted deep in her brain can free her of a devastating illness. >> reporter: jennifer is about to undergo a radical surgery, a ground-breaking procedure called deep brain stimulation.
>> how are you doing, we are almost done. >> reporter: she hopes it will cure a mental continue that has taken control of her life. compulsive disorder. it first surfaced when she was a young girl. >> i've got to go to the zoo. growing up in chicago, jennifer says her mind was overwhelmed by numbers, and she countered unusual objects and repeated behaviours. >> i had a thing where i saw something in a book or passed i had to count them, on a certain number, and i had to open and close things multiple times to number.
>> reporter: as a young girl jennifer was in therapy and prescribed medication. throughout her childhood the condition got worse. for o.c.d., now so bad, she says it's a living nightmare. at the age of 24 she constantly things about death and germs. why are you wearing gloves? >> because i don't want to touch anything that i don't have to. if there are some things i feel are so contaminated that if i wash my hands afterwards. it's not good enough. >> reporter: when you say contaminated, what do you mean by that. >> certain things in my mind that makes other things dirty. like funeral homes that are corn tam nated. if i go by a funeral home, i'm contaminated. do you feel your upbringing had anything to do with . >>
when i was in second grade, my mum was stick. therapists said could be my obsession with things dying. >> reporter: this is the one safe spot, her bedroom. >> i kind of live in this room. >> reporter: she keeps her food here to avoid contamination. and keeps her laundry basket full of gloves. >> this will not work, it's inside out, i contaminated this. >> reporter: she wears this 24/7. her mother remembers the brighter days when her daughter would play outside with friends, unafraid of contamination. >> back then everything was good. >> reporter: julie said she tried everything to stop the spiral.
how hard is this to see as a mum? >> it's horrible. her whole family is affected, and to see her. there has been years. even now. she be crying, if i touched her, she'd freak. for years. >> reporter: we saw jennifer's o.c.d. first hand when she showed us glass art on a recent family vacation. >> i like glass. >> reporter: can i touch it. >> actually, never mind, no, you can't touch it. >> reporter: social. >> that's okay. >> reporter: how tired are you of dealing with this? >> it's almost like i don't really remember what happenediness is like.
i don't remember what it's like things. >> reporter: what do you want? >> walk around your house, wash your hands, not wear gloves and be acted do 100 things that everyone has taken for granted. >> reporter: jen ferp has been searching for a cure for years. doctors are pionner ooing deep pain stimulation. patients that are enrolled are really the worst of the worst. these are patients who tried everything, and have failed. >> reporter: dr kendall lee performed brain surgeries to address movement disorders for more than a decade. what exactly is deep brain stimulation. >> it is state of the art
technologies where they implant electrodes and treat disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder. tour et cetera syndrome. >> reporter: dr lee has seen dramatic results. like the case of minnesota orchestra. he developed a tremor making it impossible to perform. >> we have to, you can only notice the tremor when he played the soil join. >> reporter: dr lee had him play his instrument while he tested the electrodes in his brain, to make sure they were on target. when the electrodes were turned on, the tremor vanished. and they were able to play. what was that like to hear the murk light up the or. >> it was
amazing. this gentleman was a concert master, he had to get the music perfect. he inserted it perfectly. when he did that he got the perfect note. >> reporter: that's cool. >> very cool. >> reporter: dr lee will perform a similar procedure on jennifer. she said it's her last hope for a better life. when we come back, we go inside the operating room as jennifer fully awake has her brain rewired.
now we go inside the operating room for an exclusive look at the ground-breaking surgery that could change her life. >> it's the morning of surgery for o.c.d. patient jennifer gleeson. can you describe how you feel as you are about to head in and undergo a change? >> i'm looking forward to it. like a kid on christmas morning. you want to get there right now. >> reporter: it's finally time for jennifer to get into the operating room. >> we are going to introduce you to the team. hundreds of these deep-brain stimulations have been performed usually for patient with parkinson's and tremors. recently they've been performed on people with psychological disorders. jennifer is one of the first to undergo the procedure for . >> the first part is the most
painful. jennifer is fitted with a head brace. her skull must remain still during the procedure. dr lee prepares for surgery as jennifer undergoes a series of high resolution m.r.i.s, crucial to avoid haemorrhage. later on, dr lee passes electrodes deep in her brain. >> it's like gaining x-ray vasion, we can look through the vessels. >> reporter: inside the operating room the procedure gets under way. >> you will hear a little bit of noise, a drilling sounded. it will not hurt. >> this is the spray. there's both electrodes in.
>> at jennifer's side is a psychologist, controlling the voltage of each elect robe on a hand-held device. jennifer's emotions change as the voltage changes. she's awake and alert describing how she feels. >> horrible. i know i'm laughing. >> you can hear it. >> yes. >> reporter: within minutes the horrible geelongs go away as the doctor adjusts the volt im, the electrodes in her brain. this is the result. smiling. >> you're laughing again. >> yes, i'm alive. >> reporter: what is it like for her to go through the highs and lows so quickly in a manic way? >> it's dramatic. and i would assume that it's very uncomfortable to feel that you are not in control of your own mind, and someone else can
take control of your mind. >> jen ger's o.c.d. -- jennifer's o.c.d. is so severe she insisted keeping on the gloves she wears everywhere, even in the operating room. they provide a unique way for doctors to measure whether the electrodes in the brain tart the . >> are you able to take your glove off. >> i could take them off, but i wouldn't want to touch anything. >> a different contact in the brain, and voltage, and jennifer's move changes. >> if someone takes the gloves, i'd probably start crying. >> you would not expect someone to turn off a switch saying "i have no o.c.d., i'm cured itself. the effect is cumulative. you get a little bitter until function. >> reporter: the highs and lows are an emotional roller-coaster for
jennifer. >> you're not going to let me be happy and smiley. >> reporter: minutes later... >> this feels bad. >> it makes be depressed. i just want to curl up in a ball and die. >> reporter: is there an unlimited realm as to what we could look at. >> it's modifying the brain circumstanceatery. any function the brain has, we have an opportunity to modify that function. >> reporter: the electrodes implanted the surgery moss to the next page. a battery pack, then she's off to the recovery room. >> jennifer, hi, good morning. >> reporter: the morning after surgery jennifer it doing well. doctors closed the hole in her
skull and the electrodes are planted in her brain, connected to a battery via wires. for now the device has been switched off. jennifer is part of a trial. half the patients in the trial will have the devices turned on. the other half receive what doctors call placebos. surgery? >> all of it. >> tell me about the laughing that? >> i think my mind was thinking something hilarious. >> reporter: you were changin buttons, moving her mind. >> it's a powerful tool, making you feel worried, wondering where the science can take us. >> reporter: what did it feel like when your emotions were on a high during that?
>> i didn't want it after that. i didn't want it to go away. bad. i had a positive experience. i had an experience that was difficult to talk about. it was worse than normal. >> reporter: doctors say two-thirds of o.c.d. patients saw the o.c.d. symptoms reduce the by half. dr lee is excited about the possibility of using it for a host of the disorders. including addiction. why are you excited about that? >> i'm excited because this changes lives. if you look at jennifer, it's a difficult situation. not only for her, but her family as well. to be able to modify that.
if there's hope, real hope, it's amazing and exciting. >> jennifer says she doesn't remember the last time she felt as happy as she did in the operating room. >> it's been a long time since i felt like there was hope and a chance to push the o.c.d. away life. >> reporter: when jennifer goes back to the clinic, doctors could switch the device on, until then, it's a waiting game to find out if and when her surgery was a success. >> reporter: we caught up with jennifer six months after her surgery. when we come back, join us to find out if it works.
"america tonight" has been following the extraordinary story of a young woman literally trying to rewire her brain, hoping to escape the devastating psychiatric condition known as obsessive compulsive disorder. now we go back to jennifer gleeson, six months after her surgery to see if it works. >> reporter: a simply hug. six months ago this would have been impossible for jennifer. >> baby tense, right. >> reporter: her obsessive compulsive disorder had taken control much her life.
she wore gloves all the time, 24/7, but no one could touch here. contamination. >> even my own mum, sometimes she'd cry because she couldn't hug me, it made me feel guilty. some of the my family members made me more guilty saying "do you have any idea how i feel?", i say "i understand, i want to hug you as much as you want to hug me." we met jennifer last august, she suffered o.c.d. since childhood, a severe psychological disorder cutting her off for other people and the outside world. as a last resort she decided to undergo radical surgery. >> almost done.
>> you'll hear a little bit of noise, drilling sound. this should not hurt. >> reporter: a groundbreaking stimulation. could you take them off. six months later the gloves came off. >> i can take them off. now i feel like i'm not protected. i mean, if someone touched my hands, first i'd hit them, that's a warning. >> you don't want me to shakour ranked right now. >> i would shake your hand with the glove, not without the clove. i'm protective about the hand. >> reporter: the fact she could do this without paralyzing fear is a change, as part of a trial testing the affects with or without the placebo. jennifer was a patient that had
it swiped on. balance. >> what do you remember. >> it was super high or low. the lows were deep. >> yes, i was shutting down. then when he turned it up, i would be giggling, laughing, making jokes and had a weird half smile constantly. like it was just giggling, and i person. >> at least she's not crazy. >> reporter: at the ab mall shelter where she volunteers, she's visibly happier since the surgery, and doing this without gloves a few months ago would have been unthinkable. >> she says she has a much greater lust for life, and revealed an unexpected side effect of her rewired brain. >> i'm more sexual. i'm more sexually interested. there were, like, times in my life where i literally walls i
think i'm asexual. i don't think i'm attracted to anything. i couldn't imagine being intimate with anyone, without it being an uncomfortable hug with my great aunt. nothing intimate was desirable. i was depressed. >> you can think about intimacy. >> it's a curse and a blessing. you don't have the desire. it's so instant, i want to be intimate with everyone, not sexually, but i kind of want to do it with people. and i don't care how well we know each other. i want to put my head in feely. again. >> i do. >> reporter: getting to this point in her life is not easy. hitting the right volting is an exact science. after one adjustment jennifer hit an all-time low and it put her in a psychiatric facility. >> i was pat the airport.
a -- at the airport, a liddy was talking -- lady was talking to me. i could see nothing, all i noticed was the scissors, and i thought if i distract her i could slash my wrists. >> do we fully understand what we are aiming at or understand the brain? no. it's highly skeptical. >> reporter: despite all the unknowns, this doctor supports db s, if done right. >> it's an interesting area for medical research. a lot of people hear about deep brain simulation and think of psychosurgery. we had an horrific history in medicine of taking the brain apart. think lob ot someies. there's plenty that remember that era, and don't trust what doctors say when they say hey,
head. >> is this different. >> it is different. you can reverse. if you don't like this, you can end it. those are the big ethical hallmarks that make db s different from all prior work in the brain. >> depending on result of this clinical study, doctors at the mao clinic believe some day db s could be used to treat other psychological disorders, and maybe adingss. caplin warns it could be a pandora's box. >> where do you see this going 10 years from now? >> this is something that for many conditions they turn out to be helpful. i can see it down the road going in a different direction. >> i never read that fast. is there a part of the brain triggering bitter memory. it leads to enhancement possibility yim. it's not there yet. you don't have to wake up thinking they'll enhance people's brains by connecting them to deep brain brokens.
10 years out. we have to decide if this kind of intervention is limited to diseases trying to relieve them or do we extend it further. >> reporter: jennifer's future is unclear. she sees a psychiatrist at the university of chicago twice a week, and is undergoing additional behavioural therapies, hoping eventually good. >> there's no such thing as o.c.d. remission, it's not like cancer where it goes away and you wait to see if tumours come back. it's more like you manage it and it's more like diabetes, where you have to influence it and maintain it, and it can easily creep up any day. >> reporter: even though it hasn't been a cure, you are happy you had it done? >> god, yes. i couldn't really remember.
when i felt it, it was very motivating, i'm like it's physically possible for me to be happy. it can happen. >> reporter: it is happening for jennifer. as for the others enrolled in the study. the verdict is not in. whatever the results, researchers say they'll help to map out the brain secretary and perhaps unlock more of its mysteries. i'm adam may, thank you for joining us for this special >> a fourteen-year-old... murdered. >> whistling at a white woman... in mississippi? >> america tonight opens the case... >> never thought that he would be killed for that. >> that started the push for racial justice. >> that was the first step in the modern civil rights movement. >> could new evidence uncover the truth about that gruesome night? >> i wanted people to hear the true story of till.
bangkok reopens a shrine that was the site of a deadly explosion. ♪ ♪ snow hello there, i am laura kyle in doha. also ahead. south korea prepares to raise the ferry that sunk in april killing more than 300 people. they left one war zone only to be caught up in another. we meet somalis trying to survive in yemen. and the u.s. sends in soldiers to help battle wild fires burning in several western states.