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brain implant against depression

Deep brain stimulation is an effective remedy for depression when another treatment is ineffective.

While many other treatments that try to fight against depression often show unsatisfactory results, new techniques are developed and have the ambition to improve the care of many patients deprived of real help. One of them is the method of deep brain stimulation.

Under this barbaric name hides an apparatus that can indeed frighten at first. A metal rod is implanted transcranially in a particular area of the brain. This electrode sends electrical signals to the neurons, according to the orders of a neurostimulator implanted under the skin and a long electrical wire, which crosses the neck, connects it. This kind of technique is effective in reducing the symptoms of diseases where brain function is disrupted.

A method that has already proven itself


Deep brain stimulation is indicated in the relief of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Annoying symptoms of psychiatric diseases such as Tourette’s syndrome or bipolar disorder may also decline in the area of the brain in which the electrode is implanted to specifically target the disease to be treated.

To treat depression, it is necessary to stimulate a brain region whose dysfunction induces the disease. Canadian scientists at the University Health Network in Toronto have targeted the subconscious cingulate cortex, otherwise known as Brodmann area 25. It is known to be rich in serotonin transporters and to be implicated in defects of mood. A decade ago, hyperactivity of this area of the brain in the depression had been highlighted during brain imaging.

The patient precisely adjusts the intensity of the stimulation


The stimulation, which intensity can be finely modulated, must, therefore, be adjusted to reduce the activity of the neurons of this region. One is never better served than by oneself, so the patient himself has a kind of remote control, which allows him to better adjust the stimulations, according to the positive or on the contrary undesirable effects that he can feel.

To study the effects of stimulation of this area on depression, twenty patients not responding to any treatment were included in a long-term study. In the first 12 months, the technique has already been effective for 12 patients in the long term. Indeed, six years after implantation, the positive effects are still visible. It is a nice fresh option within the variety of treatments for depression.

Relative efficiency


On the other hand, among the patients for whom the implant had no effect initially, two volunteered to die. While this is not surprising given the very high rate of suicide among untreated depressive patients, these findings are a reminder that deep brain stimulation is not an effective miracle cure for all patients.

The good results, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, should not be ignored, even if they remain to be confirmed on a larger number of patients. Because given the difficulty of implanting the electrode, it is better to be certain of its effectiveness. There is another form of stimulation, magnetic and non-invasive this time, which seems just as promising, and much easier to implement.

The article is made on materials of Futura-Sciences.