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

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."

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 Schlpfer. "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."


Contact: Volker A. Coenen
University of Bonn

Related medicine news :

1. Psychopaths Lack of Empathy Mimics Brain Injury: Research
2. Mini-strokes leave hidden brain damage: Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC Research
3. Discovery May Explain Why Brain Cancer Is So Hard to Treat
4. Training the brain to think ahead in addiction
5. RIC study suggests researchers are entering a new era of advances in brain research
6. Stimulating the brains immune response may provide treatment for Alzheimers disease
7. Pitt team finds teen brains over-process rewards, suggesting root of risky behavior, mental ills
8. Meditation Appears to Cause Changes in Brains Gray Matter
9. Research from MU Brain Imaging Center may lead to treatment of a variety of mental disorders
10. Pen Mightier Than Keyboard for Making Imprint on Brain
11. Deep Brain Stimulation Might Ease Tough-to-Treat Hypertension
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... The print component of “Supporting ... Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Minneapolis, South Florida, with a circulation of approximately 250,000 ... through a vast social media strategy and across a network of top news ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... ... MPWH, the No.1 Herpes-only dating community in the world, revealed that over 50% of its ... 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 – or 67% of the population - ... estimates of HSV-1 infection . , "The data shocks us highly!" said Michelle Li, ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... Wilmington, DE (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 ... ... a member of the well-respected Microsoft Dynamics SL User Group (MSDSLUG). Recognized as ... is an independent group of Microsoft Dynamics SL software users, partners, industry experts ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 ... ... you start failing. Secura Consultants has prided itself for not only fulfilling the ... best income protection solutions at an affordable price and providing top-tier customer service. ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) awarded accreditation to its ... exclusive list of CAAHEP accredited colleges, as only one of twelve colleges and universities ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... Research and Markets ( ) has announced ... Outlook to 2019 - Rise in Cardiac Disorders and Growing ... to their offering. Boston ... scientific and others. --> The market ... Boston scientific and others. ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... Nov. 26, 2015 Research and Markets ... the "2016 Future Horizons and Growth Strategies ... Supplier Shares, Country Segment Forecasts, Competitive Intelligence, Emerging ... --> --> This ... the Japanese therapeutic drug monitoring market, including emerging ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... 2015 ... the  "2016 Future Horizons and Growth ... Testing Market: Supplier Shares, Competitive Intelligence, ... --> ) has ... Future Horizons and Growth Strategies in ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: