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Neuroscience is having another big moment. Not a day goes by that there isn’t an article about the neurological applications of, well, almost anything. There’s the neuroscience of racism in the aftermath of Ferguson. (Supposedly, we’re hardwired for prejudice but can overcome it.) And the neuroscience of stress and success. (We can use our minds to de-stress and become our best selves. Duh.)

Then there’s neuroscience as “Star Trek,” boldly going where no man has gone before. In the future, we might not only be able to access lost memories, but the memories of others, feel the emotions of actors in our own bodies and communicate with the minds of the departed. It boggles the mind to think where the mind might venture.

But what about the current landscape of the brain? Where are the new and next frontiers? And what myths of the mind do we need to debunk once and for all? We turned to neurosurgeon Ezriel Kornel and psychologist Harris Stratyner for some answers and found that we don’t need seeming science fiction to be excited by what’s going on in brain research.

Treating mental illness and addiction

As far as brain applications are concerned, the most important [advancement in research] is the use of electrode implants for the management of pain and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s, says Kornel, in the vanguard of those physicians using minimally invasive surgery.

But, he adds, electrode implants have the most interesting potential for those suffering from refractory depression, for whom medication is not effective. Kornel isn’t talking about the old electric-shock therapy depicted in the movies but a safe, refined treatment that could alleviate certain forms of  “a disease we haven’t completely understood.”

That’s where psychologist Stratyner comes in. With offices in Scarsdale and on the Upper East Side, Stratyner, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is an expert in co-occurring disorders such as bipolar disorder and alcoholism, which he says is what Robin Williams suffered from. Stratyner also developed the technique of “Carefrontation,” in which addicts and those suffering from co-occurring disorders own their situations in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

“What’s fascinating,” Stratyner says, “is we’re starting to understand so much more about the brain in terms of the neocortex, which is the most advanced part and makes up two-thirds of the brain and particularly the frontal lobe, which governs reasoning, impulse control, empathy, altruism and memory.”

The frontal lobe is a work in progress among those ages 14 to 26 who don’t realize the damaging effects that alcohol and drugs like marijuana can have on it.

“If the brain is the seat of our minds … then it’s also the seat of our spirituality,” says Stratyner, a contributor to the “PDR Guide to Pediatric & Adolescent Mental Health.” “There’s a lot we can do to get naturally high.”

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