February 01, 2011
Brain Electrode Implants Relieve Depression

Analogous to heart pacemakers, an electrical pacemaker can drive currents into a few key locations in the brain to lift otherwise untreatable depression. Imagine a more refined device with many more implants that would allow dialing up various moods and mental states.

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 renowned Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews (doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiorev.2010.12.009).

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.

Stimulating any one of 3 connected areas works for relief of depression.

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.

How about an implant that turns off boring droning on? A remote control would be useful for this. Get one of these installed in any bore in the office and any time they start going on just hit a button. Would work on dates and in relationships too.

Then there are criminals. How about brain implants that would stop them from committing crimes? The electric restraint gadget wouldn't even need to work in the brain for some types of crimes. Condition of parole: Anyone threatened with harm could use their cell phone (or perhaps a button on their watch or ring) to turn the beast off and make a monster into a lamb.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 February 01 12:03 AM  Brain Depression


Comments
PacRim Jim said at February 1, 2011 10:48 AM:

Then why the outrage regarding the use of electroshock for deep depression?

faruq said at February 1, 2011 1:45 PM:

because psychiatriststs might go out of buisness as allegedley electroshock is so effective. Also the pharm companies would loose billions.

random said at February 1, 2011 2:21 PM:

@PacRim Jim - because there can be some pretty severe memory loss and personality changes caused by electroshock. My sister-in-law was doing much better after undergoing treatment - until she realized some of what she had lost. She could relearn her children's birthdays, but she couldn't remember the birth of either of them anymore.

The pacemaker sounds like it could have great potential - electrical stimulation that seems to kick people out of depression without the brain damage of electroshock.


Nick G said at February 1, 2011 2:26 PM:

Hemingway committed suicide after electroshock treatment. I don't know the details, but I have the impression that the side effects were more than he could tolerate.

Sycamore said at February 1, 2011 7:26 PM:

In deep misery one might place a negative value on present life, and stay alive only in hopes of remedy. So if electro was his last resort, and it failed to do much, lack of further hopes may be why he died.

Nick G said at February 2, 2011 6:41 AM:

No doubt - he was being treated for depression, so cause and effect are going to be hard to sort out. On the other hand, I believe his family reported that he said that memory loss due to the ECT interfered with his ability to write, and he found that too much to bear.

Wacky Hermit said at February 2, 2011 1:31 PM:

As long as we're fantasizing about electronic brain enhancements, how about a volume control for kids? With a remote, of course, so you can turn off the whining from across the room.

carlos said at February 2, 2011 2:20 PM:

Does anyone remember Michael Crichton's The Terminal Man? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072267/

bjr118 said at February 2, 2011 3:36 PM:

There is no brain damage with ECT. That's a myth put out by Hollywood movies.

BioBob said at February 2, 2011 9:44 PM:

Good idea, Randall. We could couple it with Skinnerian conditioning, chemical castration, operant conditioning and other forms of aversion therapy. /sarc

Ann said at January 3, 2012 9:43 PM:

Brain damage from ECT is not a myth. Many respected psychiatrists, neuro-scientists, etc. know this for a fact. Just Google Peter Breggin.

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