Depression is a silent but growing plague. Medicine is constantly exploring new and more effective remedies for this disease. In that circuit, one experimental treatment shows promise. It is an implant, but not just any implant. It is the implant that can mitigate depression.
Sarah, a 36-year-old woman, was the patient for this new treatment. Depression had been with her for most of her life, and she had tried various methods to feel better. Even electroshock therapy. Nothing seemed to work.
Then, an opportunity arose to try something unexplored. To do this, it was necessary to place an electrical device in his skull, connected by wires to his brain. This would detect and treat his severe depression. No one had ever been subjected to such a treatment before.
A small box was inserted under the scalp. It contained a battery and an electrical pulse generator. The procedure required a whole day’s work. She says that, when she woke up, she was euphoric.
“When the implant was first activated, my life immediately turned around. My life became pleasant again. Within a few weeks, the suicidal thoughts disappeared,” says Sarah. A year later, Sarah is still doing well and has no side effects. The implant treatment that can alleviate the depression that Sarah underwent is described in the journal Nature Medicine.
Katherine Scangos is a psychiatrist who participated in the study. She explained that this breakthrough was made possible by locating “depression circuits” in the brain. “It’s an area called the ventral striatum. Stimulation there eliminated their feelings of depression,” she added.
Expanding the study
Scangos, wants to recruit nine more patients. He explained that this is a personalized treatment. “We need to see how these circuits vary from patient to patient. And see if an individual’s biomarkers or their brain circuits change over time,” he said.
“His depression because it was so severe. From that standpoint, we’re very excited about this. It’s something that’s so needed in this field right now,” he added. Edward Chang is the neurosurgeon who installed the device. He says this is just a first step. There’s a lot more work to be done.
“To be clear, this is not a demonstration of the effectiveness of this approach. It’s just the first demonstration that this works in someone. We have to validate the results,” he added. Admittedly, it is a highly invasive procedure. It would be used only in the most severely ill patients with incurable symptoms. But it’s already a step forward.
“It needs to be tested in other patients. And see if the precise brain circuits vary between individuals,” he said. True, there is only one patient so far. But this small breakthrough is a giant hope for millions of people.