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Study Looks at Deep Brain Stimulation in Bipolar Patients
Date:1/2/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- A small study suggests that deep brain stimulation, which is currently being investigated as a treatment for general depression, may also help patients with bipolar disorder.

There are some caveats. The surgery necessary to allow deep brain stimulation is extremely expensive. And for now, the research is preliminary, so it's too early to know for sure if the treatment is appropriate to be used for any kind of depression.

Still, the study suggests that brain stimulation "not only just helps patients who haven't been able to recover from depression, but it seems to be associated with the absence of relapses. They're not only getting better, they're staying better," said study co-author Dr. Helen Mayberg, a professor in both the departments of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and neurology, at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

In deep brain stimulation, surgeons insert wires into the brain that allows a specific region to be continuously hit with an electronic pulse. The level of stimulation is controlled by a pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest.

Deep brain stimulation has been around for more than 20 years, Mayberg said, and is commonly used to treat Parkinson's disease. The cost of the surgery is about $50,000, she said.

Previous research by Mayberg and others suggested that deep brain stimulation had potential as a treatment for depression. The St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation company, which has provided consulting fees to Mayberg and some of the other study authors, is currently recruiting patients for a study that could pave the way for its approval as a treatment for depression, Mayberg said.

The new study, which appears online Jan. 2 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, began with 10 patients with depression and seven with bipolar disorder -- a condition that causes severe mood swi
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