Deep Brain Stimulation May Have Value Beyond Parkinson’s disease
DBS for treating depression is a breakthrough in Deep Brain Stimulation therapy which has had great success in controlling limb tremors in thousands of people with Parkinson’s disease. Now DBS is in the experimental stage of being used to treat patients with OCD and Depression. Read the article titled Treatment Resistant OCD which deals with Deep Brain Stimulation and OCD. The therapy involves a tiny implant being embedded in the brain which delivers electrical stimulation to targeted neurons in the brain to make them fire or suppress them from firing. This is the premise of DBS and depression in that scientists may be able to target the region of the brain that needs to be stimulated, thus remitting the symptoms and the brain chemistry responsible for depression. Other studies are being conducted on the hormone, melanocortin and the MCR4 receptor that is involved in the synapses; both of which play a role in pleasure and pain, depression, and anxiety.
Scientists Claim “Some are more or less completely cured” From Depression due to DBS
Scientists in Australia are now working to modify the implants of the DBS device in order to target the neurons responsible for major depression. When DBS was first used to treat Parkinson’s and other seizure disorders; the areas of the brain that needed to be stimulated were somewhat transient which made it more difficult to achieve the maximum efficacy of DBS. The implants are easier to work with in treating mental illness since the parts of the brain that are involved with the depression or OCD are quite fixed or stationary. A similar therapy: Vagal Nerve Stimulation was also first used to treat Epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease and later discovered that those being treated noticed a marketed improvement with their symptoms of depression. You can read more about this in my article and video I posted on Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS). These DBS implants operate similarly to cochlear implants for helping deaf people hear again. The electrical stimulation emitted can make neurons fire or cause them to be suppressed from firing. The theory is that you can shut down areas causing symptoms related to conditions such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and chronic depression.
Professor Hugh McDermott, of the Bionics Institute in Melbourne helped develop the cochlear implant and has been working on developing the technology for use in blind people, and others with movement and psychiatric disorders. DBS and Depression hold great promise for the future. Regarding the early use of the device Professor McDermott said, “Three patients had obsessive compulsive disorder OCD, one epilepsy and five severe depression.” “Some are more or less completely cured” said McDermott. Associate Professor Bittar says this technology is in its early days and more needs to be done to improve the implants, yet the results have been promising. Bitter said, “One lady, who was housebound, packed up her bags and went traveling after the surgery. She was over the moon. She still is.”
The New Therapies of DBS May Have Lasting Effects Without Diminished Efficacy
Unlike traditional medications where the effects can subside after long periods of use, Associate Professor Bittar has noticed the implants continue to benefit his depressed patients that had the implant placed four years ago. For some of the OCD patients the implants have had just as big an impact.
“About half get a dramatic benefit and some are more or less completely cured,” said Professor McDermott, who discussed his work at the International Conference on Medical Bionics held onVictoria’s Phillip Island.
“They go from institutional care to a relatively normal life where they can have a job and pretty much normal social interactions again. “It’s a miraculous benefit for those people. But it doesn’t do that for everybody at the moment.”
How Deep Brain Stimulation Works
Wires run from skull to power pack under the skin. While the implants help some patients, the devices are still considered fairly crude. Surgeons use a hole in the skull to insert the implants in a certain part of the brain depending on the disorder they want to treat. Some patients have not been pleased with the rectangular power pack protruding under their skin, the wires connected to the brain implant sometimes break as a result of normal head and neck movement during the day.
It can also take time to work out the right amount of electrical stimulation needed, and there can be side effects including speech and balance problems.
Scientists including Professor McDermott are aiming to develop wireless versions of the implants similar to the cochlear ones. And instead of having a battery pack implanted in the chest, a rechargeable battery would sit behind the recipient’s ear.
Again Technology is offering us some hope for better treatments of OCD, Depression and maybe other mental illnesses which may ultimately lead to a cure some day!