Article Examines Depression, Treated Deeply
> 4/3/2006 1:19:14 PM

The New York Times Magazine ran an article this past weekend on some new research that looks at the value of deep brain stimulation in dealing with treatment resistant depression. The article is interesting, and well reported, but may generate a lot of false hope. The reality of this new treatment, outlined in a paper published in March of 2005, is that it is still highly experimental, having been tested on less than two dozen patients thus far. There have also been no double-blind placebo tests to verify efficacy.

Building off a successful treatment for Parkinson's disease, which has been more thoroughly tested, the deep brain stimulation focuses on a specific area of the brain that PET scans have shown to be related to depression. By implanting electrodes into the brain of treatment resistant depression sufferers researchers have been able to send a small electrical current through the region known as area 25. In some cases this has led to what some doctors have called a "miraculous" recovery. Unfortunately, this miracle still comes with a heavy price tag: primarily, invasive brain surgery.

The writer takes the time to make the point though, that this new research is just a first step. PET scans have long been used to try to better our understanding of depression, and this is just one example of how that research has paid off. This new treatment has lent additional credence to the belief that in many cases, treatment resistant depression, and indeed at some level, all types of depression can be linked to physical changes or differences in the brain. Achieving a greater understanding of these relationships could give doctors and therapists a better idea of how to game plan a specific patient's treatment.

Mind Hacks has some other useful links regarding deep brain stimulation.

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