Michael Kinsley’s Deep Brain Stimulation

Michael Kinsley had brain surgery last week in an effort to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. He wrote an amusing column reflecting on the fact before they started drilling little holes in his skull.

Self-indulgently, I’ve been dropping the conversational bomb of brain surgery more often than absolutely necessary just to enjoy the reaction. And why not? I deserve that treat. After all, I’m going to be having brain surgery.


The operation is called deep-brain stimulation (DBS). They stick a couple of wires into your head, run them around your ears and into batteries that are implanted in your chest. Then current from the batteries zaps some bad signals in your brain so that good signals can be heard by the rest of your body. When it works, as it generally does, it greatly reduces the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. I wrote in Time 41/2 years ago about having PD and adopting a strategy of denial: pretending to myself and others that I didn’t have it. By now my symptoms are past the point where dishonesty and self-deception are a useful approach. But maybe this operation will get me back there.

Let us hope. I usually disagree with Kinsley on matters of public policy but have always liked him personally (insomuch as you can like someone you’ve never actually met) and respect him as a thoughtful analyst.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I wish him the best. Even though I always specify (no relation) if I link or quote him….

  2. I fought the notion of having someone stick wires in my brain for about three years. In January 2006, I had DBS surgery, and in February, my “battery-operated brain (BOB)” was turned on. It has given me back so much of my life, which will allow me to continue to educate others about Parkinson’s disease and work to find the cause and cure.

    I wish Mr. Kinsley well — he’s in good hands (I, too, went to Cleveland) and look forward to reading more of his work. The PD advocacy world could benefit from his voice.