Researchers presented evidence at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' annual scientific meeting that deep brain stimulation improves severe depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
"Depression is a physiological disorder, and basically we are regulating the abnormal signals to the brain causing the depression," the website quoted Centre for Neurological Restoration Director Dr Ali Rezai as saying.
Rezai conducted the research along with scientists from Butler Hospital and Brown Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The report says that researchers have used deep brain stimulation on 17 severely depressed patients. Those treated with deep brain stimulation experienced a 50 percent decrease in depressive symptoms after 12 months. Patients also reported a better ability to function, improved short-term memory and improved quality of life.
In order to give deep brain stimulation to psychiatric patients, neurosurgeons implant the device and psychiatrists adjust the charge.
Surgeons place tiny implantable electrodes into a specific node of the cerebral cortex that is believed to be malfunctioning, the report says. The cerebral cortex, sometimes referred to as the ‘gray matter’, governs information from senses and movement, and regulates thought and mental activity.
From the cerebral cortex, wires are tunneled behind the ear into the chest, where there is a power source for the electrodes that emit electrical impulses into the brain. Scientists theorize that this stimulation blocks the abnormal brainwave activity, easing the obsessions, moods and depressive symptoms associated with these psychiatric disorders, according to the report. Researchers stress that this is not an option for people who are mildly or occasionally depressed but rather for people suffering from major depression and for whom all other methods -- including psychotherapy, drug therapy and electro-convulsive therapy – bring no result.
Researchers say it could ultimately prove life saving for this population. The suicide rate among people with major depression runs as high as 15 percent. The idea of using an electrical jolt to shock away depression is not new. Doctors have been using electro-convulsive therapy, in which a brief electric stimulus is used to produce a seizure, for decades.