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Brain Electrodes Fix Long-Term Depression

January 6, 2012

I love to read Nature magazine.  It’s probably my favorite of all publications.  On their website, I stumbled upon an article that many people are likely to be interested in.   Though I’ve heard about this years ago, scientists can now implant electrodes into a person’s brain (subcallosal cingulate to be exact), and by artificially changing firing patterns connected to the frontal cortex, they can remove depression and bipolar disorder.   It’s now going through testing and is proving itself effective in most people (11 out of 12 people are cured).

The effects aren’t necessarily immediate though.  Most patients require a year before drastic effects are seen, but studies are showing that most who undergo this treatment are cured.

Patients who have received the surgical implant describe it as lifting a dark cloud off of them.  They’re once again interested in what’s going on in the world.  It’s no longer a struggle, feeling as if each day they’re having to swim against the tides of a black vortex trying to suck them in.  It’s like a calm.  It’s a change in the brain’s rhythm.

Other patients have described it as turning on the lights.  It takes their focus away from themselves and invites them back into the world.  With that vortex gone, they’re able to climb their way out, their thoughts and feelings begin to change, and over the course of that year they’re able to reprogram their brains.  The device doesn’t give a person happiness, but it takes away what was keeping them from being happy.

I should note that it’s not a total cure though.  Once you turn off that electrode, their depression comes right back.  Even so, it’s wonderful that people can be relieved of such a terrible disease.

Here’s a lecture on the topic if you’re interested.  This seems to be from 2009, so it’s a few years back.  Back then, only around 60% of patients were treated successfully.  You can see that over the past few years they’ve been able to tweak their methods and improve upon them.

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