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DBS provides long term benefits for depression


Severe depression causes one to become despondent, lack energy and drive, withdrawn and hopeless. Most people with depression also suffer from anxiety and have suicidal thoughts. While many people with depression get help, many more do not. “Many patients are not helped by any therapy. Many spend more than ten years in bed – not because they are tired, but because they have no drive at all and they are unable to get up,” said Prof. Dr. Thomas E. Schlapfer from the Bonn University Medical Center in Germany where one in five people report depression.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is being studied as an alternative to traditional therapies for these patients. Deep brain stimulation uses electrodes implanted in the brain. The target is to stimulate the nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain known as the gratification center. Also referred to as a brain pacemaker, the deep brain stimulation can also be used to treat muscle tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease.

In 2009 a study on the effects of deep brain stimulation showed that severely depressed patients found relief from the procedure.

“In the current study, we investigated whether these effects last over the long term or whether the effects of the deep brain stimulation gradually weaken in patients,” said Prof. Schlapfer. “By contrast, in the case of deep brain stimulation, the clinical improvement continues steadily for many years.” Additionally, there were no serious side effects.

The process though remains a mystery. It is not clear how it works. “Research is still needed in this area,” explained Prof. Schlapfer. “However, it will still take quite a bit of time before this therapeutic method becomes a part of standard clinical practice.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, University of Bonn

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