Brain implants can halt depression

Scientists use pacemakers to relieve sufferers

Brain

The use of brain pacemaker is well-known in the case of treating the effects of Parkinson’s, but new studies have shown it might help with depression too.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a treatment where an implant is placed in the patient’s head, acting in a similar way to a pacemaker used in the heart to regulate the heartbeat.

Brain un-freeze

Only a few patients have undergone the treatment so far, but six of the 17 were in remission a year after undergoing the treatment, with four more showing noteworthy improvements.

More than half of the 26 obsessive-compulsive patients involved in the studies from a team at the Cleveland Clinic, Brown University, and Belgium's University of Leuven, showed marked improvement as well.

Significant responses

"Not all patients get better, but when patients respond, it's significant," says Dr. Helen Mayberg of Emory University, who has placed the implant in around 50 patients thus far.

"We're rewiring the brain in many ways," says Dr. Ali Rezai, chief of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Neurologic Restoration.

Further study required

The treatment is still a long way off being ready for the prime-time, as careful attention and study is needed in each case when working out where to place the implant.

But it offers hope to millions of depression sufferers worldwide, and shows technology will always have a positive place in society.