Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain pacemakers: A long-lasting solution in the fight against depression?

Date:
January 31, 2011
Source:
University of Bonn
Summary:
Physicians have suggested a new target structure for a very promising depression therapy, the so-called deep brain stimulation. They hope to achieve better success rates with fewer side effects.

Nearly ten percent of all cases of depression are so severe that the patients do not respond to any established treatment method. Targeted stimulation of areas in the brain using a type of "brain pacemaker" has recently raised hopes: According to initial studies, half of patients with the most severe depression treated in this manner see a significant improvement in mood. Physicians from the University of Bonn, together with colleagues from the US, have suggested a new target structure for deep brain stimulation (as it is technically called). They hope to achieve an even better success rate with fewer side effects.

The work has been published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

In deep brain stimulation, physicians implant electrodes in the brain. Using an electrical pacemaker implanted under the patient's clavicle, physicians can influence the function of certain areas of the brain in a lasting manner. The method was originally developed for treating patients with Parkinson's disease, in order to alleviate the typical movement problems.

Lasting Improvement

For several years, the method has also been investigated in the treatment of the most severe cases of depression, with striking and completely unexpected success: In patients who had undergone many years of unsuccessful treatment, the symptoms sometimes significantly resolved. The most striking aspect: "Depression does not return in patients who responded to the stimulation," emphasizes Professor Dr. Thomas Schläpfer from the Bonn Hospital for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy. "The method appears to have lasting effects -- and this is in the case of the most treatment-resistant patient group described in the literature. This has never before happened."

Deep brain stimulation has been tested to date in three different areas of the brain: the nucleus accumbens, the internal capsule, and a structure known as cg25. Surprisingly, the effects are nearly identical -- regardless of which of these centers the physicians stimulate. Together with colleagues from Baltimore and Washington, the Bonn researchers have since been able to explain why this is the case: Using a novel tomography method, they were able to make the "cable system" of the three brain centers visible. "In doing this, we determined that at least two of these three areas -- probably even all three -- are attached to one and the same cable harness," explains the Bonn brain surgeon, Professor Dr. Volker Coenen.

This is the so-called medial forebrain bundle, a structure which has been known in animals for a long time. The forebrain bundle forms a kind of feedback loop which allows us to anticipate positive experiences. "This circuit motivates us to take action," says Coenen. "In patients with depression, it is apparently disrupted. This results in, among other things, an extreme lack of drive -- a characteristic symptom of the disease."

The nucleus accumbens, internal capsule, und cg25 all appear to be connected to the medial forebrain bundle -- rather like leaves are connected to the branch from which they arise. Whoever stimulates one of these regions of the brain simultaneously influences the other components of the motivation circuit to a certain extent. Coenen, who was the first to anatomically describe the forebrain bundle in humans, now proposes implanting the electrode for deep brain stimulation directly into this structure. "We would use the electrode to send the current pulses to the base of the network and not to the periphery, as before," explains Schläpfer. "We could thus potentially work with lower currents and yet achieve greater success."

A comparatively low-risk procedure

Observations of patients with Parkinson's disease appear to support this idea: in this case, a network of brain structures responsible for movements is stimulated. The more basally (figuratively speaking: near the branch) the electrical stimulation is applied, the greater its effect. At the same time, the risk of adverse side effects is reduced.

By now, more than 80,000 patients with Parkinson's disease worldwide have a brain pacemaker in their body. "Experiences to date demonstrate that the brain intervention necessary for this is relatively low-risk," stresses Professor Coenen. "Thus from a medical point of view, there is nothing that argues against also using this method to help people with very severe depression."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Volker A. Coenen, Thomas E. Schlaepfer, Burkhard Maedler, Jaak Panksepp. Cross-species affective functions of the medial forebrain bundle—Implications for the treatment of affective pain and depression in humans☆. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.12.009

Cite This Page:

University of Bonn. "Brain pacemakers: A long-lasting solution in the fight against depression?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131133311.htm>.
University of Bonn. (2011, January 31). Brain pacemakers: A long-lasting solution in the fight against depression?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131133311.htm
University of Bonn. "Brain pacemakers: A long-lasting solution in the fight against depression?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131133311.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) — New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins