There is a new groundbreaking surgery that may help patients suffering from depression to cure the condition. The treatment is a surgical technique that is currently in trial stages at the University of Toronto in Canada. This new surgery is called deep brain stimulation (DBS), and it involves inserting tiny electrodes that are attached to a battery implanted below the collarbone. These electrodes then target specific areas of the brain that may be responsible for depression. The electrodes basically act similarly to the way a pacemaker does in that they transfer continuous high frequency electrical impulses that can either start or stop neural activity. The trial for this groundbreaking surgery is being conducted on a participant, Bruce Ross, who has suffered from treatment-resistant depression for 40 years.
“I wasn’t at all nervous,” he says. “By that stage, I was pretty desperate. I just wanted it done.”
DBS is currently used to treat intractable Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain. According to Dr. Andres Lozano, the Toronto-based neurosurgeon who performed the surgery on Ross, this procedure can improve depression symptoms by as much as 60 percent.
Dr. Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University in Atlanta, also has performed the surgery herself. “We took the principle of the Parkinson’s treatment and applied it to depression,” says Mayberg. Years of medical imaging, she says, have shown several parts of the brain that are involved in mood disorders.”We hypothesized that a brain region called Area 25, which is part of the cingulate region, was the problem,” she notes.
Researchers experimented by using electricity to “turn down” activity in this area.“Same process as in Parkinson’s but a different spot,” she adds.
“Area 25 is connected to areas related to sleep, motivation, reward and pleasure,” adds Lozano. “Think of your car. You have an accelerator but you also have a brake. Similarly, the brain has ‘excitatory’ and ‘inhibitory’ circuits. In depression, the sadness circuits are stuck on full throttle. We’re stimulating the inhibitory circuit, stepping on the brake.”
This method of “stepping on the brake” appears to work so far, but more research will have to be conducted to confirm the efficacy. A more in-depth look at this new procedure can found online at the National Post.
Depression affects millions of Americans every year. The condition is generally treated with antidepressant medications like Paxil or Effexor. However, studies are currently showing those pills to be extremely dangerous in that they both have been linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviors and birth defects in children who are exposed to the drug in-utero. Some of the birth defects linked to Paxil and Effexor include neural tube defects, spina bifida, PPHN and oral clefts.