People with severe depression may benefit from deep brain stimulation.
Long-term outcome research indicates that deep brain stimulation holds promise for the treatment of intractable major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, a frequent companion illness. The technique targets a specific node in the cerebral cortex. When that one region is stimulated, the effects spread throughout the frontal lobe of the brain.
Inspired by the success of DBS in treating the tremors associated with Parkinson's disease and movement disorders, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic used deep brain stimulation on 17 severely depressed patients. Those treated with deep brain stimulation had 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. The study was announced in May 2008.
Is DBS like electroconvulsive therapy?
Electroconvulsive therapy is a treatment for severe mental illness in which a brief application of electric stimulus is used to produce a generalized seizure. It's been used for some 45 years, but is still controversial. Researchers say DBS is much more selective than ECT. It does not induce seizure and it targets one node of the brain.
Researchers aren't reporting the types of side effects that can occur with ECT, including hemorrhages, infections or other neurological deficits such as cognitive and memory loss. But DBS and ECT are similar in that both would be used on depressed patients who are resistant to treatment, can't function, and are at a much higher risk of suicide.
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