'Deep brain stimulation enhances depression treatment'

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Deep brain stimulation, a concept extensively used in treating Parkinson’s disease, could help treat depression, according to researchers in the United States.

Prof Helen S Mayberg, MD, director of Center for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics at the Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai, told DH that the procedure involves implanting an electrode in the patient’s brain through the small incision made through the skull to send high frequency (130htz) stimulation to a specific part of the brain.

“We have found that there is a certain Area 25 in the brain that turns active when a person has episodes of depression. The frontal lobe turns off. By providing signals to Area 25, we can treat depression,” she said.

The implants come with pacemaker-like patches placed on the patient’s chest region. This helps in controlling the signals and can be turned off or on.

Helen said the device has a minimal function since the signal sent to the patient’s brain is constant. Patients have the implant for life, while its battery could be replaced once in 10 years.

Helen’s research team studied 38 patients implanted with the electrode since 2003 and their progress has been monitored for over a decade. “Patients with no other co-morbidity are chosen (for the procedure),” she said. “We also conduct scans to address the kind of depression they experience. This procedure is for patients for whom no other line of treatment has worked. The procedure is a booster. So, patients are not taken off medication. But in a few cases, when they show improvement, medicines could be gradually withdrawn.”

“This is a first-world treatment and so, is expensive,” Helen added. She hoped the procedure would lead to more research.

The professor was in the city recently to deliver the 39th TS Srinivasan Endowment Oration on ‘Rethinking Depression and its Treatment’. She will also speak at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans).

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'Deep brain stimulation enhances depression treatment'

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