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April 11: Treating Parkinson’s

April 10, 2015

srvr-1Dr. Irving Cooper accidentally found a surgical treatment for Parkinson’s Disease on this date in 1952 when he inadvertently interrupted a Parkinson’s patient’s anterior choroidal artery (AChA) during brain surgery and was forced to close off the artery. When the patient awoke from anesthesia, his tremor and rigidity had vanished while his motor and sensory capacities were unimpaired. Cooper then began to ligate the AChA purposely to reduce the tremors of the disease. Cooper (1922-85) also developed other surgical techniques to treat several neurological disorders caused by stroke. In 1973, he developed a ”pacemaker” brain implant that helped halt epileptic seizures and reduce the spasms of people with cerebral palsey through the emission of tiny electrical charges. ”Modern medicine has lost sight of its purpose,” Cooper said that year, “the treatment of sick individuals who have come for help.” “Toward that end,” wrote Ronald Sullivan in the New York Times, “he devoted himself to the treatment of people with the most painful and crippling conditions. In many cases, he helped restore patients who were given up as hopeless.”

“[O]ne of the great brain surgeons of the world.” —C.P. Snow