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A Brain Implant Treats Severe Depression

Oct, 2021

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Doctors successfully treated severe depression of a patient with a brain implant that monitors brain activity and resets depressive brain patterns.

A team of physicians at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) successfully treated a patient with severe depression using a brain implant that is same as a pacemaker and taps into a specific brain circuit involving depressive brain patterns and resets them. Earlier clinical trials that used conventional method of deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat depression had restricted success due to the limited efficiency of the devices. These traditional devices can just provide electrical stimulation in only one part of the brain. However, the team at UCSF demonstrated a proof-of-concept of brain implant treating depression by stimulating specific parts of brain.

This new research studied all the findings of earlier researches that focuse on alleviating depression. The team observed all the electrical activities in the subject’s brain for 10 days to detect specific patterns that are associated with depression signs. The scientists studied on specific region in the brain that constantly showed activities indicating severe depression symptoms. The team then developed a new deep brain stimulation device that responds when it detects a specific pattern of brain activity that indicates the onset signs of depression. The stimulation device then stimulates another region of the brain circuit and creates on-demand therapy unique to the neural circuit creating the disease and the brain.

Furthermore, before implanting the device, the subject scored 36 out of 45 on the Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). The depression of the subject started lifting soon after the implantation of the personalized device and the subject scored 10 on MADRS, which signifies remission.  The team claims, even though the positive results are obtained from the study, there is a lot of work and clinical trials that need to be done before bringing this treatment into the clinical practice. 

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