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Deep Brain Stimulation shows promise as treatment for depression

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April 10, 2013

Scientists have used Deep Brain Stimulation to successfully treat patients suffering from ...

Scientists have used Deep Brain Stimulation to successfully treat patients suffering from severe depression (Photo: Shutterstock)

Deep Brain Stimulation, in which a pacemaker-like device activates select regions of the brain via implanted electrodes, has been used to help people suffering from a variety of neurological problems. Just in the past few years, studies have explored its use for treating anorexia, Alzheimer’s, and memory disorders. Now, perhaps not surprisingly, scientists from Germany’s Bonn University Hospital have found that it also appears to do wonders for acute depression.

It’s not the first time that the technique has been tried on depression, although in previous studies, the nucleus accumbens region of the brain was targeted. This time around, a bundle of nerve fibers running from the limbic system to the prefrontal cortex was selected – a region known as the medial forebrain bundle.

Both regions play a role in the brain’s reward system, which is in turn associated with feelings of euphoria. Because the medial forebrain bundle contains so many nerve fibers lying close together, however, the therapy is reportedly able to have a maximum effect using a relatively weak electrical current.

In the Bonn study, six of seven severely-depressed test subjects showed a significant reduction in symptoms such as “anxiety, despondence, listlessness and joylessness” – within a matter of days of starting the treatment. An eighth patient treated since has also shown great improvement. The patients have been monitored for up to 18 months after treatment, and the effects appear to be more than just temporary – so far.

In the earlier-mentioned previous studies, by contrast, a higher current needed to be used, results took a matter of weeks to appear, and the therapy worked for only about 50 percent of the subjects. Researchers at UCLA, however, have had a better success rate using external Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation on nerves in the foreheads of depressed patients.

A paper on the Bonn research, which was led by Prof. Volker Arnd Coenen and Prof. Thomas E. Schläpfer, was recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Source: Bonn University

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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8 Comments

Only expensive therapies work in the church of pharma

Stewart Mitchell
11th April, 2013 @ 10:21 am PDT

I hope someone experiments with TDCS between back of head at tip of cerebellum and center low forehead to see if any similar results can be obtained. That montage may pass current through the region these folks stimulated with deep probes. It may have no effect or it may have a profound effect but the experiment needs to be done.

Some people have already reported depression relief from TDCS with other montages that could only stimulate this region in a peripheral sense and not in the flow direction of the probes in this report.

DonGateley
11th April, 2013 @ 11:34 am PDT

Depression is growing and over 20 million are on antidepressants , it is getting worst. College student depression has increased in the last 10 years, they are stressed out, this was shown on Holland

http://whatcanhelpdepression.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/depressed-and-stressed-out/

danieldoor
11th April, 2013 @ 11:49 am PDT

The social and legal systems will eventually be forced to alter themselves in shocking ways. The fact that behavior and success may be medical rather than a consequence of good behavior and effort will rock society to its core. For example addictions are highly related to depression. Violence is also highly related to depression and addiction as well. Academic failure and depression are related. So instead of hammering little Johny to study his algebra more we might send him to a neurologist for medical adjustments. It is endless.

Jim Sadler
11th April, 2013 @ 01:32 pm PDT

DonGately if you are interested in different modalities you can also subscribe to daily newsbrief channels from the International Neuromodulation Society: http://www.neuromodulation.com/news-feed

INSeducate
11th April, 2013 @ 03:21 pm PDT

When this is used to replace drugs as Heinlein predicted 60 years ago the economic and social consequences will be horrendous.

Capt'n Squid
11th April, 2013 @ 07:06 pm PDT

what if there is a valid reason for depression like constant pain. expecting people to be happy all the time is unrealistic.

David Wallace
14th April, 2013 @ 05:46 am PDT

@David Wallace - Depression is not defined as feeling low for a reason, that is defined as sadness. Depression is a medical condition that causes the affected individual to feel low and sad for observable reason. As Jim pointed out it affects every aspect of the individuals ability to make choices often creating self destructive loops like addiction, undermining realationsships, ability to stay focused on long term goals, etc.

VirtualGathis
30th April, 2014 @ 06:51 am PDT
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