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Saurabh Sinha, Robert A. McGovern and Sameer A. Sheth

Autism is a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by early-onset impairment in social interaction and communication and by repetitive, restricted behaviors and interests. Because the degree of impairment may vary, a spectrum of clinical manifestations exists. Severe autism is characterized by complete lack of language development and potentially life-threatening self-injurious behavior, the latter of which may be refractory to medical therapy and devastating for affected individuals and their caretakers. New treatment strategies are therefore needed. Here, the authors propose deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) as a therapeutic intervention to treat severe autism. The authors review recent developments in the understanding of the pathophysiology of autism. Specifically, they describe the genetic and environmental alterations that affect neurodevelopment. The authors also highlight the resultant microstructural, macrostructural, and functional abnormalities that emerge during brain development, which create a pattern of dysfunctional neural networks involved in socioemotional processing. They then discuss how these findings implicate the BLA as a key node in the pathophysiology of autism and review a reported case of BLA DBS for treatment of severe autism. Much progress has been made in recent years in understanding the pathophysiology of autism. The BLA represents a logical neurosurgical target for treating severe autism. Further study is needed that considers mechanistic and operative challenges.

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Charles B. Mikell, Saurabh Sinha and Sameer A. Sheth

The main objectives of this review were to provide an update on the progress made in understanding specific circuit abnormalities leading to psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia and to propose rational targets for therapeutic deep brain stimulation (DBS). Refractory schizophrenia remains a major unsolved clinical problem, with 10%–30% of patients not responding to standard treatment options. Progress made over the last decade was analyzed through reviewing structural and functional neuroimaging studies in humans, along with studies of animal models of schizophrenia. The authors reviewed theories implicating dysfunction in dopaminergic and glutamatergic signaling in the pathophysiology of the disorder, paying particular attention to neurosurgically relevant nodes in the circuit. In this context, the authors focused on an important pathological circuit involving the associative striatum, anterior hippocampus, and ventral striatum, and discuss the possibility of targeting these nodes for therapeutic neuromodulation with DBS. Finally, the authors examined ethical considerations in the treatment of these vulnerable patients. The functional anatomy of neural circuits relevant to schizophrenia remains of great interest to neurosurgeons and psychiatrists and lends itself to the development of specific targets for neuromodulation. Ongoing progress in the understanding of these structures will be critical to the development of potential neurosurgical treatments of schizophrenia.

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Saurabh Sinha, Eric Hudgins, James Schuster and Ramani Balu

Acute brain injuries are a major cause of death and disability worldwide. Survivors of life-threatening brain injury often face a lifetime of dependent care, and novel approaches that improve outcome are sorely needed. A delayed cascade of brain damage, termed secondary injury, occurs hours to days and even weeks after the initial insult. This delayed phase of injury provides a crucial window for therapeutic interventions that could limit brain damage and improve outcome.

A major barrier in the ability to prevent and treat secondary injury is that physicians are often unable to target therapies to patients’ unique cerebral physiological disruptions. Invasive neuromonitoring with multiple complementary physiological monitors can provide useful information to enable this tailored, precision approach to care. However, integrating the multiple streams of time-varying data is challenging and often not possible during routine bedside assessment.

The authors review and discuss the principles and evidence underlying several widely used invasive neuromonitors. They also provide a framework for integrating data for clinical decision making and discuss future developments in informatics that may allow new treatment paradigms to be developed.