back to article Shocking. Lightning strike knocks out neuro patient's brain implant

A report published in the Journal of Neurosurgery documented the alarming experience of a patient who got a little too close for comfort to a lightning storm while undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS is used to treat neurological movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, and involves inserting electrodes into …

  1. sqlartist

    I have a DBS installed

    well i have a Deep Brain Simulator and this is not good news at all. I have already had the thing replaced due to firmware problems - twice. Worldwide product recall of the charging devices except no-one told anyone in the UK - I was two hours away from having to have it surgically removed. Luckily I took the device apart and pressed the hidden reset button.

    Its already a ball ache charging myself up, charging the device up - to introduce a surge protector would be another thing.

    having said all this - the device is awesome and takes 13 years of level 10 pain, 12 hours a day completely away.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: I have a DBS installed

      "this is not good news at all"

      What's bad about it? Even in an extreme event like a lightning strike the device correctly shuts down in a safe manner, preventing the patient from coming to any harm. I don't see how the news could get much better than "medical device failsafe system works correctly".

      As for the recommendation to use a surge protector when charging, there's a reason the UK uses fused plugs in addition to household circuit breakers (or at least did historically, fuses seem a bit less common these days). Electricity is dangerous even when you're not plugging it into your head, and a slightly larger plug is a small price to pay for significantly increased safety (as well as the much better structural properties compared to the likes of US plugs). Frankly, I'd consider anyone plugging their brain directly into the mains without some kind of protection to be utterly insane, even before this guidance was issued.

      1. sqlartist

        Re: I have a DBS installed

        A surge protector is the least of my worries, I also have to sleep with a water tank on the bed, a four way power supply to plug everything in :(

        When I turn the implant up I do seem to attract an unfair amount of insects - there has been some research on the fact that ants are attracted to the electrical signal - so at least it indicates I'm not completely crazy.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: I have a DBS installed

          So some kind of illumination to indicate the functionality of the device is only going to attract moths - and some ridicule perhaps.

          1. MAH

            Re: I have a DBS installed

            all I can think of is this:


      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: I have a DBS installed

        As for the recommendation to use a surge protector when charging, there's a reason the UK uses fused plugs in addition to household circuit breakers

        As mentioned already, surge protectors may protect the charger and other mains-connected devices from overvoltage, but a lightning strike close by will induce currents in any piece of wire that happens to be at an unfortunate orientation with respect to the strike, and which forms a loop in some way. For which they don't even need to be connected to the mains. Mains wiring does have longer lengths over which they can pick up the strike's induction, in addition to earth potential differences.

        Electricity is dangerous even when you're not plugging it into your head

        The charger is supplying a low DC voltage to the device, and not running mains straight into it.

        But the DBS, connected to the charger or not, could well have gone haywire from the EMP and provided a rather overstimulating pattern. Instead, luckily, it shut down, although that did have some unpleasant side effects too.

    2. Lee D

      Re: I have a DBS installed

      Yep, you have absolutely no idea what the outcome of a lightning strike could be anyway. An inch to the left and it might have fried you, implant or no implant.

      You can't defend against lightning strikes like that (even the surge protector suggestion is silly... surge protector just don't kick in fast enough or to a high-enough current... they are to stop related *surges* on the local electrical circuits (i.e. hopefully 99.9999% of which goes straight to earth), not 10 million volts straight to the device). I'm sure it'll be covered under their £50k "connected equipment" guarantee, though, you just won't be around to claim it.

      To be honest, you're just as likely to die from holding a mobile phone as you plug it in while being (quite literally) struck by lightning.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: I have a DBS installed

        "you have absolutely no idea what the outcome of a lightning strike could be anyway. An inch to the left and it might have fried you"

        If you were an inch away from a lightning strike you'd probably be killed anyway. Several meters away might might make the difference between living with only a few complications and dying.

        Ten meters is probably a safer distance, assuming whatever the lightning did strike (eg a tree), didn't explode and send flaming debris hurtling at you.

        (more info)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I have a DBS installed

        £50k connected equipment guarantee.....

        When I tried to claim you had to ship to switzerland (at your own cost each way) the complete UPS and ALL equipment connected to it (including anything attached to the ups or equipment via network cable, usb cable or serial lead) even if the other equipment in undamaged.

        in my case that would have meant shipping the following list in order to claim for a fried server power supply.

        1 x UPS

        1 x 1U supermicro server

        1 x 10A 12v PSU

        1 x uhf transmitter

        1 x uhf receiver

        1 x DV-RPTR (D-Star repeater interface controller)

        1 x uhf duplexer

        1 x uhf antenna

  2. Tigra 07

    You can't prevent everything...

    Since we've now talked about the risks of lightning would you also like to buy Volcano Insurance?

    1. JeffyPoooh

      Re: You can't prevent everything...

      Tigra 07 made a poor comparison, "...would you also like to buy Volcano Insurance?"

      Volcanos kill hundreds per year, on average. Slightly worse than the Cape Buffalo.


      Lightning kills probably tens of thousands per year.


      Nearly two orders of magnitude in the gap. So a very poor comparison.

      Lightning is certainly nowhere near traffic accidents (not even close), but it's still worth unplugging the odd charger cable when there's a lightning storm about.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: You can't prevent everything...


        My grandma used to switch off sockets to prevent the electricity leaking out and her daughter (my mum) used to unplug the telly when there was lightning about to prevent the telly blowing up.

        Which really used to piss me off as we had a 405 line telly that would only receive BBC1 for about 10 years after everyone else had colour and 3 channels. It never fucking broke down which was the only way it was going to be replaced - until the grandparents died and we got their colour one.

        I think the old one is probably still working in the land fill somewhere.

      2. Tigra 07

        Re: You can't prevent everything...

        I was kinda implying that insurance is generally a scam, combined with the Volcano Insurance gag from Family Guy. Sorry, but I said it intentionally.

        What about blimp deaths? Got figures on those? Asking for a friend...

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: You can't prevent everything...

      And of course Marmoset insurance

  3. RGE_Master

    This is like something out of Doctor strange!

  4. RGE_Master

    It's just like something out of Dr Strange!!!!

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      That's the problem - It isn't.

      If the world were fair she would have got superpowers.

      1. sqlartist

        Re: That's the problem - It isn't.

        I got the ability to read faster and go crossed eyed the wrong way with the implant.

        not the best superpower but hey we are the first

        1. Tempest8008

          Re: That's the problem - It isn't.

          So you can move your eyes outwards simultaneously instead of inwards?

          That's cool. But now I'm struggling to find a name for that...can't be cross-eyed, you're not crossing them.

          Google is your friend (says Google):





          Divergent Strabismus (if you're a cat)

  5. ravenviz Silver badge

    which caused heating in the brain


    1. Tigra 07

      RE: ravenviz

      Must have been a real "hot-head".

      Yes, i know, i'll be leaving now.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    it's alright, nothing to worry about, lightning never strikes twice...

  7. VeganVegan

    A bit of levity

    With all the comments so far, and nobody has mentioned yet another benefit of always wearing a tinfoil hat?

    & where is the tinfoil hat icon hiding these days????

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: A bit of levity

      Having a tinfoil hat is only a partial solution. It's also needs be grounded which requires a bit of wiring which might be substantial depending on where (location... like home) you wear the hat.

    3. Jeffrey Nonken

      Re: A bit of levity

  8. Stevie


    I know it's in poor taste but as I read I was flashing (ahahahahaha) on Bester's Fondly Fahrenheit, specifically a scene where the android capers maniacally in a field during a storm.

    Please forgive me. Read the story (which has nothing to do with brain implants) if you can. It's a classic.

    1. Sam Therapy
      Thumb Up

      Re: Bah!

      Upvoted for mentioning what is one of the funniest SF short stories ever. Always makes me laugh out loud.

      1. Stevie

        Re: Bah!

        We may not be talking about the same story.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    AaaaaaAAAAh ... (sound of someone's head exploding like that poor fellow on "Scanners")

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