In this article, we will talk more about different aspects of brain implants for depression so that you can have a better idea about it.
Depression is a devastating and all-too-common mental health issue. According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in fifteen adults experiences it every year, and one in six will experience a depressive episode at some point in their lives. So, the number is quite high, as we can see.
A chemical imbalance in the brain is just one possible cause of depression, and other factors, such as personality, upbringing, and genetics, can also play a role.
There are, luckily, many ways to treat it, such as medication, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), just to name a few. And now there’s hope for a potential future treatment, which is getting implants in the brain.
Attempts to treat depression with brain implants have shown startling outcomes for researchers. It’s encouraging news for the future of treating this sneaky illness, even if they won’t be widely available any time soon.
Maybe in the future, it will help people who are depressed. In this article, we will talk more about different aspects of brain implants for depression so that you can have a better idea about it.
Electrode implants have been used in medicine for quite some time. Open-loop DBS has been used successfully to treat epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease by stimulating parts of the brain with only occasional manual adjustments.
Closed-loop pacemakers automatically change the patient’s heart rate based on electrical signals from different parts of the heart.
Attempts to use DBS as a treatment for chronic depression have been met with varying degrees of success in the past.
In earlier studies, everyone had the same brain stimulation target, which led to conflicting results about how well it worked. There was an improvement in some people’s symptoms, but it was usually quite slight.
In cases of severe depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be helpful, but it is not a cure. Often referred to as shock treatment, this method differs greatly from its forebears.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this procedure is performed under general anesthesia, sending electrical currents to specific brain regions.
The ultimate goal is to cause a seizure in order to cause chemical changes in the brain. There is no guarantee that it will work, but even the most severe cases of depression that haven’t gotten better with other treatments may get better with this one.
Neuroimplants perform the same function. A case study of a person with a major depressive disorder who did not improve with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is described in a publication published in Nature Medicine.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, could use a wire to implant a device called NeuroPace RNS into the patient’s right hemisphere of the brain to monitor the amygdala for signs of depression and administer electric stimulation to counter the effects.
Researchers thoroughly examined the patient’s brain before implanting the NeuroPace RNS. In the study, the people who took part did something called “stimulus-response mapping,” in which the effects of activating different parts of the brain were recorded.
Hence, researchers identified potential stimulation sites for treating the patient’s severe depression. A part of the patient’s brain called the ventral striatum was activated, and the result was emotions of elation and happiness, as reported in an article published in Scientific American.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t sufficient to simply know where to stimulate to give treatment. The timing of this treatment was another crucial piece of information for scientists to have.
They did a brain scan and discovered that the patient’s gamma oscillations in the amygdala were a good predictor of increased depressive symptoms.
A wire placed in the patient’s amygdala made it possible for the implant to give the right amount of therapy.
The stimulation lasted six seconds at a time and was directed at the ventral striatum region known to boost happiness.
When that happened, the implant was considered unnecessary until the gamma oscillations produced another wave, at which point it would be turned back on.
The sufferer could receive soothing stimulation on demand. The patient said that after a few months of having the implant, almost all of her depressive symptoms had gone away.
Depression can be treated with a brain implant and a closed-loop DBS system. Then, a person’s brain is mapped to find the areas that are linked to the worst depressive symptoms and stable, long-term relief of those symptoms.
Then, we look at the connections between these areas to see how well the brain assimilates information.
Mood-related neural activity patterns and depression-related brain activity signals help pinpoint these areas.
Once the network has been properly mapped and described, many electrodes are surgically put in close to the places where they are needed.
Based on the brain activity that is causing the patient’s symptoms, these electrodes send electrical currents to the right places.
Stimulation based on biomarkers makes it possible to give each person a treatment that is timed to start when their symptoms do.
Closed-loop DBS needs to be looked into in more depth in order to find out all of its possible uses and problems.
This pilot study is based on the brain activity that is causing the patient’s symptoms; these electrodes send electrical currents to the right places.
Where conventional treatments for depression have failed, closed-loop DBS shows that brain implants may be effective there.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic pulses to change the activity of neurons in certain parts of the brain that have been linked to depression.
Over the course of several weeks, a technician will use a handheld device to deliver these pulses during sessions that last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. TMS works to normalize activity in the parts of the brain that are being treated.
TMS has been used to treat depression and other mental health and neurological issues since 1985 when it first gained FDA approval.
In particular, people who have not reacted well to previous therapies have found that traditional TMS is safe and effective.
There is no need for anesthesia, it can fit into a person’s regular routine, and there are no negative aftereffects.
TMS has been shown to be effective over a long period of time so that it can be used alone as a treatment, and it can also be used in conjunction with other therapies because it is not intrusive.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation has evolved into deep TMS. Deep TMS uses a helmet instead of a handheld device to send pulses to the brain to be more precise, cover more area, and reach deeper layers of tissue.
Because of its enhanced capabilities, Deep TMS can directly regulate the neural activity of the relevant neural structures, allowing it to reach broader and deeper portions of the brain simultaneously.
It’s premature to declare this brain implant a cure for depression, as this is only a single-subject trial. Yet the prospects are really bright.
The next step for scientists is to work with the patient to have them go without the device for six weeks and then use it for six weeks to see whether the symptoms return.
There is still a long way to go before this brain implant can be widely used. It’s a promising first step toward giving people with major depressive illnesses a chance to recover from their condition and lead a normal life.
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