'A Frontier of Medicine': Brain Surgery for Weight Loss

"Tell me if that changes anything," said Whiting.

"Yeah, I'm cooled off," said Poe. "I really am. Yeah, I am pretty cool."

The so-called thermostat of the brain, where we get our sense of temperature, is right next to the region where the stomach is also controlled.

Poe said she felt fine, and even at a moment like that, her favorite beverage came to mind. "I sure could use a Pepsi, though," she said. "I told him to find the Pepsi button. He must have found it. Woo!"

Almost miraculously, doctors were controlling Poe's stomach through her brain.

"And then they started to turn it up, and I had to tell them if I felt anything different. Like I started getting real hot. And then I felt like I was going to throw up," Poe said later.

"They knew exactly every pinpoint," she said. "It was like they knew my body. They knew how my body was reacting to everything, and they knew what to do to make it back where it should be."

The surgery lasted three hours. Poe remained in the hospital, and two pacemaker-type devices were implanted into her chest to control the amount of voltage that is sent to her brain.

"You want to do a touchdown end-zone dance, because it was exactly what we wanted to get with the location and the voltage,"said Whiting immediately after the surgery.

Whiting also discussed why maintaining a constant dialogue with Poe was so important. For more than 40 minutes, doctors kept talking, asking Poe repeatedly how she was feeling.

"She wants to … theoretically give us the answers we want to hear and what we want to is without her knowing [is] change parameters to see if it was consistent," Whiting explained. "And in fact there were some things early on that weren't consistent, and we knew they weren't for real, but the nausea findings were very consistent so we very well [could] prove that they were for real."

Creating 'a Sensation of Fullness'

In the months ahead, the voltage going into Poe's brain will be turned on and then increased over time. "She got a nausea feeling at higher voltages," said Whiting. "Our ideal plan would be to set the electrical setting at just below that threshold of nausea where she doesn't really feel any different but still readjust her weight thermostat so that she can metabolize better and actually eat less if that's what it takes."

The morning after surgery, Carol was irrepressible.

"I didn't think I'd feel this good today," she said. "I really feel good. I could go home if they'd let me, because I'm that confident about it. I don't worry about going home and something happening.

"I think the best part of the surgery was the fact that I was awake.

"And I got to hear everything that was going on. I could hear the drill drilling into my head, and I thought, 'Oh my God.' And it was like a big bunch of pressure, like when you push down on something. I could feel all the pressure. And then I could actually feel the drill going through the bone into where it wanted to be."

Bailes is confident that there will be positive results for Carol Poe.

"Well, we hope her sensation is a sensation of satiety, a sensation of fullness, a lack of compulsion to consume excess calories," said Bailes. "And a sensation again of satisfaction, of not having … the feeling we need to eat some more when we know we don't."

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