Scientists in the U.S. have developed an implant to treat severe depression

Neuroscientists and psychiatrists from the University of California, USA, have developed an implant that can treat depression that is resistant to other treatments. An article about the scientific discovery was published Oct. 4 in the scientific journal Nature Medicine.

“We have developed a high-precision medical shock method for treatment-resistant depression. By identifying and modulating the circuitry in our patient’s brain that is associated with the symptoms of her illness. This research paves the way for a new paradigm in psychiatry that is sorely needed,” said Andrew Crystal, PhD, professor of psychiatry and member of the Institute of Neurology at the University of California at Weill.

Previous clinical trials of treating the disease with traditional deep brain stimulation (DBS) have been ineffective in part because most devices could provide constant electrical stimulation in one area of the brain. And depression affects different areas of the organ.

California scientists were able to discover a neural biomarker, a specific pattern of brain activity that indicates the onset of depression symptoms. The developers were able to configure the new DBS device so that it only responds when it recognizes this pattern. It then stimulates another area of the brain circuitry, creating a therapeutic effect on both the patient’s brain and the neural circuits that cause the disease, if necessary.

The specialists cite in the article an example of the impact of the method on patient Sara, who has been living with the implant for 15 months and has almost forgotten about the periods when she took antidepressants, underwent electroconvulsive therapy, and made suicidal attempts. Her life has changed for the better, and Sara has not yet experienced any side effects.