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

ngs and is also known as manic depression. They all received deep brain stimulation for 24 weeks after going through four weeks either with or without stimulation.

Most of the patients continued to receive the treatment over two years, although researchers temporarily turned it off in three of them as part of the study before realizing that doing so caused their depression to return.

The researchers found that 18 percent of patients went into remission after 24 weeks, 36 percent (of 14 patients) after one year. After two years, of the 12 patients still in the study, seven patients (58 percent) were in remission.

"The number of patients who got better increased over time, but it's not quite clear as to why," Mayberg said. The workings of deep brain stimulation as a whole are a mystery, although Mayberg said it may work by changing the brain's rhythms.

Patients didn't suffer from side effects, she noted.

So, what's next?

Dr. Samuel James Collier, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Austin, predicted that even if deep brain stimulation turns out to be an effective treatment for depression, it'll be far from the first line of defense.

"Medications and ECT -- electroconvulsive therapy -- are clearly safer, better tolerated, and do not embody a large surgical risk," Collier said. "I can't think of a scenario where deep brain stimulation would be considered even remotely before medications and ECT were exhausted."

Still, he said, it's important to note that "we seem to be making progress and hopefully those who are suffering the most can find solace in that and not give up hope."

For now, research continues. If patients are interested in deep brain stimulation treatment, they should try to get into the study that's ongoing, Mayberg said.

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