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.

Related Articles


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 January 24, 2015 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 January 24, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) — Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Phoenix hospital is experimenting with a faster way to test much needed medications for deadly brain tumors. Patients get a single dose of a potential drug, and hours later have their tumor removed to see if the drug had any affect. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

Buzz60 (Jan. 22, 2015) — What you do before bed can effect how well you sleep. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has bedtime rituals to induce the best night&apos;s sleep. Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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