Medicine: Steps Toward a Brave New World

The rush is on to treat neural disorders with brain implants

For more than a year, Tess Follensbee had found it easier to start moving her rigid muscles if she walked backward, so pronounced was her Parkinson's disease. In May, all that changed. The 39-year-old mother of four was one of the first half a dozen Americans to undergo experimental brain surgery for Parkinson's at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Last week some 500 medical researchers, gathered at a symposium sponsored by the University of Rochester in New York, watched a videotape of Follensbee in awed silence as she triumphantly, if tentatively, propelled herself forward. Says the patient, who still suffers...