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Battery Powered Brain; Prepare & Protect; Living the Good Life

Aired April 14, 2012 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning to you. Thanks for joining us.

Lots to get to today, including extreme weather. Keeping an eye on that. How to make sure your family is ready if a disaster strikes.

Also, a funny story. One man's humble quest for bodily perfection -- what you might learn from the healthiest man alive.

But, first, a look under the microscope.


GUPTA: You know, Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" made a lot of news over his nearly 70-year career, including this revelation that when he was 87, he had suffered from severe depression, was nearly suicidal at one point.

As you know, he's not alone. Depression affects more than 19 million American adults every year. Think about the number. That's more than coronary heart disease, more than cancer. You know, it just makes a lot of people still uncomfortable to simply talk about it.

So we decided to bring the discussion out in the open. You know, in most cases, depression is treatable. Medication, anti- depressants can be very effective. In milder cases, cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to work just as well.

Unfortunately, for many people, though, nothing seems to work. That's why it's so exciting to hear about this totally different new approach. It involves a device like this -- implanted, looks like a pacemaker, you got two wires that come from this and insert into the brain, deep brain stimulation. Then on the outside, a doctor can literally flip a switch.

It's a radical approach for sure. But in some cases, the results can be quite astonishing.


GUPTA (voice-over): For as long as Edi Guyton can remember, she could not get the sad thoughts out of her head.

EDI GUYTON, DIAGNOSED WITH MAJOR DEPRESSION: My mother used to say to me, "Smile, Edi, why don't you smile?" And I would give a something like that, maybe, or just think, what's there to smile about?

GUPTA: At 19, the first of three suicide attempts.

GUYTON: For reasons that are inexplicable to me even now, got up and started playing with a razor, and --

GUPTA (on camera): You cut your wrists. You cut both your wrists?


GUPTA (voice-over): Over the next 40 years, she tried counseling, psychiatric drugs, and electroconvulsive shock therapy, but nothing worked.

GUYTON: The despair I think is what is the most powerful push towards suicide because there feels like there is no hope.

GUPTA: But if could you look inside Edi Guyton's head today, this is what you'd see -- two electrodes, the thickness of angel hair pasta, powered by a battery pack under her collarbone.

GUYTON: I don't think about it, but I've l have electrodes in my brain.

GUPTA: It's an experimental use of deep brain stimulation.

(on camera): Sort of what we're looking at here.

GUPTA (voice-over): Pioneered by neurologist Dr. Helen Mayberg.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The X is where we're stimulating.

GUPTA: The target is called Area 25, a junction box for the brain circuits that control our moods.

(on camera): Here at Emory where I'm on staff, my colleagues have been using deep brain stimulation for more than 15 years to treat movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease. In that case, they are targeting the brain's motor system.

But Dr. Mayberg wanted to use DBS to target Area 25 for patients with severe depression.

(voice-over): It was a procedure just like this done on Edi Guyton. In surgery, patients are lightly sedated as a neurosurgeon drills two holes. With an instrument to guide him, he then inserts the electrodes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the contact on?


GUPTA: As a benchmark, the doctors asked Edi to rate her feelings on a scale of one to 10, starting with dread.


GUYTON: My sense of dread is getting worse.


GUYTON: Eight.

GUPTA: Two minutes later, they turned on one of the four contacts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does it feel right now? Is it still high?

GUYTON: No, it's much less.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the dread right now?

GUYTON: Three.

GUPTA: A drop from eight to three. But doctors would soon get an even better result.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll make some changes.

GUPTA: Up until this time, Edi could not connect emotionally, not even with her baby grandniece, Susan.

GUYTON: And somebody handed her to me, and I held her, but I was going through the motions and I felt really nothing.

GUPTA (on camera): Nothing?

GUYTON: Nothing. Nothing.

GUPTA (voice-over): That changed in the operating room.


GUPTA: -- when they tried contact number two.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me know if anything changes, just give a shout.

GUYTON: I just almost smiled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just almost smiled?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Describe that for us, would you please?

GUYTON: I didn't smile, I haven't smiled before in a long time. Or laughed.

Right there in the middle of brain surgery, I felt feelings that I thought were gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you say you almost smiled, did something strike you as funny or spontaneous?

GUYTON: It was -- well, I, it -- actually I was thinking of playing with Susan.

I started thinking about Susan, little Susan. And I thought I was holding her with her face to me.

GUPTA (on camera): What that is like to think a machine and electricity could transform your emotions like that?

GUYTON: It felt fantastic. I didn't care what was doing it. It just felt great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spoon that in there.

GUPTA (voice-over): Since 2003, Mayberg studied 37 patients with two-thirds showing significant improvement.

GUYTON: Pretty good, huh?

I don't feel good all the time but this gives me the capacity that if I can, if there is joy in my life, I have the capacity to feel it.

GUPTA: But what exactly is DBS doing to the brain circuits?

(on camera): What do we and don't we know why this works?

DR. HELEN MAYBERG, NEUROLOGIST, EMORY UNIVERSITY: To be brutally honest, we have no idea how this works.

GUPTA (voice-over): While Mayberg continues her research to unlock the secrets of Area 25 -- it's been five good years for Edi Guyton.

(on camera): If you hadn't had the operation, where would you think you'd be right now?

GUYTON: I really believe that I would have committed suicide.


GUPTA: Edi's transformation is so dramatic. But for now, as you might guess, the procedure is still experimental. There's these two medical device companies that are conducting larger studies. They both have the hope of winning FDA approval, but that's at least several years away.

You can see much more of this reporting on, quote-unquote, "Battery-Powered Brains," Sunday night, "CNN PRESENTS," 8:00 and 11:00 Eastern.

You know, but up next, one of our very own, CNN assignment editor Stephanie Gallman joins me. She wrote this really honesty, this really funny piece for our Web site that's called "An Optimist Journey Toward Dropping the D-Bomb."

Can you be an optimist and depressed at the same time? The answer is yes, and you're not going to look at your friend, or your co-workers, or your family the same way after you see this. We'll talk about it, that's next.


GUPTA: You know, dealing with depression, as we've been talking about today, isn't easy. Your friends and loved ones can help. But as some of you may know, they can also get in the way.

The first step, as you will hear, is admitting you actually have something going on.

Well, CNN's Stephanie Gallman who works right downstairs, did just that. She started to talk about it.

And, you know, Stephanie, thanks for joining us. Thanks for being on the show.


GUPTA: It was really brave. We do a lot of reporting on depression. And one of the first things that people always tell us, just admitting it, talking about it is a hard thing to do. How hard was it for you?

GALLMAN: Everyone that asked me about the piece, I am came out of me. But deciding what I was going to do with it, if anything, was the most difficult part. And after speaking to my family about it, and you know, close friends, this is a good idea, is it not, they were very supportive, some, you know, were really honest, I wouldn't handle it that way.

GUPTA: Right.

GALLMAN: I'd probably keep that to myself.

But my personality is kind of -- I mean, it's wide open, so I felt better, more like me to share it, and the response has been overwhelming, I'm glad I did.

GUPTA: Yes. And it's on It's a wonderful blog, as I said.

One of the things that, you know, is really poignant there is when you were first told, look, you're depressed, you have depression, you essentially laughed it off. You said that is not me, that is somebody else, I don't even like depressed people was your attitude, right?

GALLMAN: Yes, and my doctor laughed because that was my first instinct was to say, oh, no, that's not me, I'm not depressed. You know, depressed people to me were, you know, people who cried all the time and, you know, wore sweatpants and held up in their home, I was not that person.

And I, you know, was very vibratious and, you know, gregarious, told jokes. So, it came as a shock to me, you know? That attitude of what a depressed person looks like was not something that I identified with at all.

GUPTA: You know, one of the things a lot of people think about and we work together, so, you know, we're colleagues here but people who have jobs, they think I can't talk about this, because people in my work place, we don't know how they're going to react. And you called it the D-bomb, the depression bomb.


GUPTA: And, again, you were very open about it. But what was the response from your other work colleagues?

GALLMAN: It has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive. And strangely enough, so many people have reached out to me saying I suffer from this, you're so brave, which I don't necessarily think I'm brave as much as I am just kind of laying it all out there.

GUPTA: Right.

GALLMAN: But -- I mean, a lot of people suffer from this, to varying degrees. I mean, some people, you know, have been completely debilitated by it. That wasn't my experience, but, you know, to a lot of different levels, people -- a lot of people here and in other work places and outside of here are suffering from this. And it's unfortunate that it is so taboo to talk about it.

GUPTA: I think it's helpful for people to hear you say that, because, again, you know, one of the hardest things people suffering in silence.

I want to read something from your blog specifically. I guess there are little piece of advice or just thoughts instead of drugs they'd say, why don't you do more of the things that you enjoy? Tend to your garden. Find a project, something to focus attention on. Read "The Secret." Bite me.


GALLMAN: My mom was going to be so happy that I should put (ph) --

GUPTA: That's the quote that we decided to pull out of that blog.

GALLMAN: That's awesome, yes.

GUPTA: Hi, Ms. Gallman.

GALLMAN: I'm emotional of that (ph).

GUPTA: Where did that come from?

GALLMAN: Yes. Well, I mean, you know, when you tell people, you know, I'm depressed, you know, there is -- there is a lot of people who don't believe that depression is a real thing. And I get it. I mean, I definitely was kind of in that school of thought, too.

Again, if you're depressed then you're not trying hard enough, you're not doing enough of the things that you should do to make yourself happy. And so, when people would say that, oh, gee, why didn't I think of that, of course like I'll totally go out and do more of the things I want.

You're not listening to me. I'm having a hard time to even wanting to do anything.

GUPTA: Well, let me put a punctuation mark on that and say, you know, remind people that we're talking about a brain disease here, something we now have more evidence than ever -- objective evidence of what exactly is happening in the brain.

This isn't anecdotal. This isn't something subjective. It is real. And again, I'm so glad that you came on the show and I'm glad that you talked about it.

GALLMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

GUPTA: I hope everyone reads the blog. It will make a huge impact.

GALLMAN: I appreciate it.

GUPTA: Ms. Gallman, sorry about that.

GALLMAN: I know.

GUPTA: Still ahead, though, one man's quest to become the healthiest man in the world. Who doesn't want that? What you can learn from him.


GUPTA: Hey, we're back with SGMD.

You know, there's been a rash of natural disasters this week. You may have heard about the massive earthquakes that rocked Indonesia and Mexico, also a tornado ripped through California.

As you probably know, hurricane season -- well, it's just around the corner. So, we invited back meteorologist Bonnie Schneider, who's written this new book, "Extreme Weather." It's a guide to surviving the worst natural disasters. And she joins us this morning to show us how to prepare for the worst.

Thanks for being back here.


GUPTA: You know, we see -- you hear the warnings on TV. You see the tornado images like the ones were just seeing there. But people don't always know what they should do then when they are being given these warnings or hear this news.

What's the first thing you recommend?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the first thing I recommend is to have a NOAA weather radio. It could be a small device like this, or even or smaller like this one. And these are important to have with you at your house or in your car when you're traveling, and make sure it's turned on, the batteries are working, and it's programmed to your county or in Louisiana your parish. And this way, if a tornado warning goes off, and there's an alert, you'll be aware.

What I found in researching my book, is that many people are caught off guard to severe weather.

GUPTA: Right.

SCHNEIDER: They don't even know they are under a threat for severe weather. So, just being aware is really half the battle.

GUPTA: Yes. You know, it's funny, because we learn these things when we are kids, and I think people become a little bit more complacent as they get older. But I think, you know, it's an important reminder.

Also, you know, just being prepared -- I mean, people always take care of things after the fact. But you say be proactive.

Tell us what some of the things you should have in the house or the car.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it's very important to have a supply kit in your house and in your car and know where it is, make sure everyone in the family knows where to find it. That's part of the problem. People don't know where it is.

So, let's say you have your radios. But another important thing to have at home is a water proof, air tight container, just like this as a simple thing. But you want to put your passport in here, any important documents because in the event of a flood or tornado, this is likely to protect your belongings as well.

GUPTA: Right.

SCHNEIDER: Even if you have a pet, I recommend keeping identification papers and a picture of your pet in this box, too, because when you become separated from your pet, and if you have a picture, you're more likely to find it.

GUPTA: Good advice.

SCHNEIDER: So that's one thing to keep in mind.

If you are driving, these are standard things to keep in your car. And if you live in an area where you could get caught perhaps in a snowstorm or even if it turns colder at night, this blanket -- we see this a lot during the marathons, you know --

GUPTA: Right, yes.

SCHNEIDER: But that's a simple thing that you can have in case of emergency to keep warm -- first aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables. This is an emergency poncho in case you're caught in a rain storm you want to be able to get out and protect yourself.

And this is something interesting, I think, too. A whistle, you can have this at home and in your car. In the event of a tornado when there is debris everywhere, when there's road closures, if you're caught and stuck and you have no way to communicate that, just let the rescue workers know here I am. Come rescue me.

GUPTA: Thanks a lot for being with us.

SCHNEIDER: Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Valuable information. Appreciate it.

You're going to get a kick out of this, I think, Bonnie. So stick around.

We got one man's humble quest as he calls it for bodily perfection.


A.J. JACOBS, AUTHOR: I subscribe to a movement called chewedism. The more chewing, the better.


GUPTA: And there he is, standing by in New York. A.J. Jacobs, he's written this new book out that's out this week that he promises will make you laugh until your sides split and endorphins flood your blood stream. Can he do it?

I'll talk to him. That's next.


GUPTA: As you know, our goal here in SGMD is to help you live a longer, healthier, more optimistic life.

So, with that in mind, I can't wait to introduce you to our next guest, who transformed himself literally into a human test subject with this goal -- he wanted to become the healthiest man in the world.

A.J. Jacobs, he's the author of "Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection."

A.J., thanks for joining us. Good morning to you.

JACOBS: Thank you. Good morning.

GUPTA: So, I got to ask. The first question I think everyone asks you is how did you come up with this idea?

JACOBS: Well, a few years ago, I was totally out of shape. I was what they call skinny/fat. So, I had a body that looked like a snake that had swallowed a goat.

And my wife said to me, she said, you know, I don't want to be a widow when I'm in my 40s. You've got to get in shape. I said, OK. If I'm going to do this I'm going to go all in. I'm going to try everything out and see if I can see what works, what doesn't, how healthy I can possibly be.

GUPTA: So you did not want to start small. It wasn't just about losing weight for you or finishing a triathlon or lowering your cholesterol.

It sounds like your goal was maximum health literally from head to toe. How did you feel? Your wife has given you some grief, sounds like. You know, my wife has done that to me as well by the way.

How did you feel at that point?

JACOBS: Before I felt terrible. My energy was low and as I said I was -- I looked terrible. So I said, yes. I'm going to do everything. Not just diet, exercise, I'm going to work on my sleep, my stress level, my sex life, my posture, everything.

And so, it was like a 24/7 job, just so much to do.

GUPTA: Were there things that surprised you? Because you know, one thing I always hear, A.J., is I tell people things and it's not usually things I'm telling them -- aren't things that they don't already know. I'm sort of more reminding them. Were you surprised by some of the advice you got?

JACOBS: There were some surprises. I was surprised by how bad sitting is for you. I never realized what the research says, that it is -- someone described sitting as the new smoking.

GUPTA: Right.

JACOBS: Because it's just terrible for your heart and it's like eating a Paula Deen bacon donut every day.

So, I try not to sit for more than an hour at a time. I try to get up from my desk. I took it to the extreme because that was the premise of the book, so I wrote this book on a treadmill desk. It took me about 1,200 miles.

You say you're healthier. You look great. I'm watching you here during this interview.

JACOBS: Thank you.

GUPTA: I mean, what do you think was the most important thing ultimately? People who aren't going to do all the things that you did, I mean, the advice always seems to be eat less, exercise more, move more.

What do you think is the takeaway for people out there?

JACOBS: I think the takeaway is that you can do a series of small things that will have a big impact as I say, walking and flossing and chewing. This one I didn't see coming.

But I started to chew my food because there is this movement on the Internet. They are very passionate. They call themselves chewedism and they believe we all should be chewing more. And they do have a point, because when you chew, you eat more slowly. And when you eat slowly you eat less and you gain less weight. Things like that.

I also learned that you don't have to go to the gym for an hour and a half. If you do something called high intensity interval training, if you go really hard and really fast for a shorter period of time, you can have a more efficient workout. So that is a huge bonus for me, because I am crunched for time.

GUPTA: Yes, you're a busy guy. A lot of us are.

But, you know, look, it's a fascinating book. I hope a lot of people get a chance to read it. But in the end, you know, again, A.J. some of those simple tips that I think people can immediately incorporate into their lives and makes a huge difference. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

JACOBS: Oh, thanks. Thank you for having me.


GUPTA: So do you want to live to be 100? A lot of people do.

I have a travel tip for you. And this one is really important to me, because I spend a whopping 33 hours in the air last month alone. It's not something I'm proud of.

But, you know, sitting for a long stretch of time especially if you're tall, especially if you're overweight can cause really a life threatening blood clot. You may have heard of this. It's called a deep vein thrombo embolism or DVT. The clot can form in the leg then break free and lodge for example in your lungs.

One study finds that the risk goes up by 18 percent for every two hours of sitting.

So, I want to show you a quick trick I use on long flights. Sitting in my seat, these are my socks. I don't often wear shoes when I do the show. You see my socks.

Sitting in my seat I lift my legs like this. You're literally getting the calf muscles a little stretched there and then sort of rotate your ankles around. This is something you can sort of do while sitting there on the flight. You want to do just enough to keep the blood flowing through your legs. Like my socks?

I also make a point to stand and walk around the plane as much as I can as much as the flight attendants will allow me.

And this week, I'm on the road again in fact. So you can follow me at or on Twitter @SanjayGuptaCNN.

Make an appointment. Come back to see us next weekend right here on SGMD.

Time to get you a top -- checking your top stories. Randi Kaye is with us in "THE CNN NEWSROOM."