Under the Hood

Severe Depression Treatment: Deep Brain Stimulation Shows Promise

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 300 million people suffering from depression worldwide. The number is expected to grow, which pushed the medical community to expand efforts to find the right treatment.  

One team of researchers believe they found what could be a safe and effective long-term treatment for depression. A recently released eight-year study shows that deep brain stimulation helped reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the mental disorder in patients.

The treatment was tested in people diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar II conditions. Researchers said majority of the participants showed “robust and sustained antidepressant response."

Deep brain stimulation has been widely used to reduce the effects of numerous conditions in the U.S. To date, doctors provide the treatment to help people with Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, tremor and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Surgeons implant wires into the brains of patients and place a stimulator in their chest or abdomen. The wires send small electrical pulses directly to areas of the brain that are responsible for the symptoms of the condition. 

In the new study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, surgeons placed the wires in the brain region, called subcallosal cingulate (SCC), in patients with depression. The test started in 2005 and continued for eight years. 

Initial results showed that the deep brain stimulation implants were able to reduce symptoms of severe depression. The researchers continued to follow 28 participants to see the treatment’s long-term effects, Medical News Today reported Monday.

"What my colleagues and I were seeing as we continued to follow patients from our initial trials was that over time, they were getting better and, not only that, they were staying better," Helen Mayberg, senior study author and a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said. "Over eight years of observation, most of our study participants experienced an antidepressant response to the deep brain stimulation of Area 25 that was robust and sustained."

After follow-up studies, the participants’ response rates remained at or above 50 percent and their emission rates were at 30 percent within eight years. Mayberg and her team said long-term deep brain stimulation appeared safe to treat depression. 

"For people suffering from inescapable depression, the possibility that DBS can lead to significant and sustained improvement in depressive symptoms over several years will be welcome news," Andrea Crowell, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral health sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said.

The researchers will continue to follow 23 participants to further understand how deep brain stimulation implants treat depression. 

Sad To address the growing rates of depression cases across the world, scientists continue to seek new treatments for the condition. Pixabay