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Brain pacemakers: A long-lasting solution in the fight against depression
Date:1/31/2011

This release is available in German.

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.

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 Schlpfer 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."

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Contact: Volker A. Coenen
volker.coenen@ukb.uni-bonn.de
49-228-287-16503
University of Bonn
Source:Eurekalert

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