DBS as a treatment for clinical depression

I stumbled across this recently in one of my favorite Neuroscience blogs “Cognitive Daily” they gave this snippet,

“In DBS therapy, one or more electrodes the size of a spaghetti strand are precisely positioned in the patient’s brain, then connected by wire around the skull and through the neck to a pacemaker-like device, a neurostimulator, just below the collarbone. The neurostimulator is activated and deactivated by a magnet that the patient carries, so if a tremor is beginning to become disruptive, DBS can be self-administered in an instant, with near-instantaneous results. A video provided by the manufacturer of a DBS device shows how it works in ideal cases.

Now new uses for the treatment are being tested. One observed side effect of DBS for Parkinson’s is excessive happiness, to the point of uncontrollable elation–the sort of unhealthy, personality-changing reaction that everyone fears when they think of electrodes being implanted in their brain. Tuning the device can minimize this side effect, but its very existence suggests that DBS might be a useful therapy for clinical depression.”

My grandfather actually had this same treatment done during the early stages of DBS use and his late stages of Parkinson’s disease.  Although he was far too late stage for us to really be able to notice personality changes, he was helped somewhat.

For those of you who are not too familiar with the disease, Parkinson’s is a genetic disease effecting the dopamine producing neurons based mainly in the mid-brain, causing them to stop producing dopamine which has a large role in the control of starting and stopping individual motor functions, hence the side-effect of shaking.  However Skizophrenia can be thought of as Parkinson’s polar opposite, it is the excess creation of dopamine in the brain.  Deep brain stimulation seeks to cause the dopamine producing neurons of the brain and force them into over production causing and excess of dopamine in the brain.  Parkinson’s medication has been known to cause symptoms of schizophrenia in some, but if dopamine levels are low enough in the first place DBS could be very useful in the treatment of depression.  Personally i’m extremely excited to see if this actually works once it is tried in patients with severe depression, although im unsure if the psychological community will be as excited to start physically altering brain chemistry with electrodes.

Full post here: http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2009/11/deep_brain_stimulation_for_cli.php

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