A new surgery to treat depression?

June 10, 2018

Some people have such severe depression that medication or therapy never works. They have what doctors say is treatment-resistant depression.

Scientists have been working on ways to tackle this problem and there may be some hope. It is called deep brain stimulation surgery.

On June 4, Nature.com published the work of scientists at the University of Texas. They did deep brain stimulation surgery on five patients with treatment-resistant depression and the results were encouraging. They reported a 70% decrease in their depression over 12 weeks.

In deep brain stimulation, electrodes are placed in a specific part of the brain and are connected by long wires that travel under the skin and down the neck to a battery-powered stimulator under the skin of the chest. Think of something like a pacemaker.

The stimulation works on the part of the brain called the medial forebrain bundle which is a collection of fibres that release or transfer dopamine, the chemical that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.

The article was titled ‘A longitudinal study on deep brain stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle for treatment-resistant depression’ by Albert J. FenoyPaul E. SchulzSudhakar SelvarajChristina L. BurrowsGiovanna Zunta-SoaresKathryn DurkinPaolo Zanotti-FregonaraJoao Quevedo &  Jair C. Soares and it appeared in Translational Psychiatry volume 8, Article number: 111 (2018)