New Hope for Depressive Disorders

According to a new study, there may be hope for individuals suffering from treatment resistant depression. The double-blind study, called BROADEN(TM) (BROdmann Area 25 DEep brain Neuromodulation), analyzed the effects of deep brain stimulation (DBS) on people with severe depression. This specialized therapy does not rely on any medication. Instead, it utilizes an implanted device that stimulates specific areas of the brain, much like a pacemaker does for the heart. This is the first study of a non-medication therapy that has been proven to be safe and effective in treating major depressive disorder (MDD).

This revolutionary system consists of three chief components; a neurostimulator, which is approximately the size of a pocket watch, houses the battery and electronics that create the brain pulsations, a programmer, which resembles a car’s keyless entry remote, allows modifications and regulation to be done remotely, and a patient controller, which is a compact device that enables patients to turn the neurostimulator on and off.

In addition to these components, there is a network of leads and extensions which are surgically placed in the brain to transmit currents and signals. Then the neurostimulator is implanted just beneath the skin in the chest. Once fully the entire system is implanted and fully functional health care practitioner programs the neurostimulator.

Not everyone suffering from depression was a candidate for this study. Only patients who matched a precise profile were granted the opportunity to participate in the Broaden study. Patients were required to be within the age range of 21 and 70 years old and have a history of major depressive disorder (MDD), beginning prior to age 45. Patients were also obligated to have tried a minimum of four different medications in conjunction with other forms of therapy.

It is estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that individuals in excess of 21 million suffer from a depressive disorder. Of these, nearly 4 million people are believed to have symptoms so severe that medications and other forms of therapy are essentially useless to manage. With such a broad spectrum of people in search of help to control or eliminate this debilitating condition, deep brain stimulation could provide a level of relief unlike any other. While not a cure, this promising treatment opens up a world of possibilities and it could be the gateway to a highly sought-after cure. Time will tell if this type of therapy will become a mainstream treatment and it will be interesting to see what comes next.


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