Scientists have managed to use a personalized implant to relieve severe depression in a woman who has not responded to any other treatment.
A team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, USA, was able to use a personalized brain implant to relieve the suppressive symptoms of severe depression in a 36-year-old woman, Sarah, allowing her to see beauty again. peace and life. “It’s like my view of the world has changed,” said Sarah, a patient volunteer who asked to be referred to by her first name only.
Sarah was severely depressed for several years.
Scientists have implanted temporary electrodes made of thin wire into his brain. These electrodes allowed researchers to track brain activity consistent with Sarah’s symptoms of depression, a pattern the researchers could use as a biomarker. In this patient’s case, a special symptom arose: a fast brain wave, called a gamma wave, in her amygdala, a brain structure known to be involved in emotions.
Deep brain stimulation
Therefore, they made an individual device for her – the implant was built specifically for Sarah’s brain. Based on deep brain stimulation, the procedure uses an electrical connection between two components implanted into the body: an electrode with multiple points of contact implanted in the brain and a programmable pulse generator implanted somewhere under the skin. Through trial and error, the scientists identified a closely related area of the brain, the ventral striatum, where a small dose of electricity had an immediate and profound effect.
Electrodes implanted in his brain sent electrical impulses to other implanted structures, almost like a “brain pacemaker.” High-frequency stimulation in the target area of the brain blocked the signals that block the symptoms of depression.
After treatment, the woman experienced “rapid and sustained improvement” in the severity of her depression, the researchers explain in their study published in the journal Nature Medicine.
“Further work is needed to determine if the results and approach of this single-patient study can be generalized to a wider population,” explains UCSF neuroscientist Catherine Skangos, who led the study.
The device costs about $ 35,000 (about 30,000 euros) and is an adapted version of a device commonly used to treat epilepsy called the NeuroPace RNS System. The approach used by the researchers required a lot of sophisticated image processing and machine learning technologies.
Although the therapy has been tested on one patient and is only suitable for patients with severe illness, the success is considered to be very significant. Thanks to this progress, depression could soon be treated simply with a brain implant, building on the successful results of this groundbreaking experiment, and to be able to offer customized treatment for all these difficult-to-treat neuropsychiatric disorders.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 264 million people worldwide suffer from MDD, and another 20 million suffer from schizophrenia. Both are among the most common harbingers of suicide.
So far, the researchers have already recruited two more patients and hope to recruit nine more to assess whether the technique can be applied more broadly.