Brain Pacemakers Depression. Brain pacemakers could be the next thing to tackle depression and other tough psychiatric diseases. Health experts are trying to figure out where to place the tiny implants in all that gray matter.
Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, has proved a powerful way to block the tremors of Parkinson’s disease. Blocking mental illness isn’t nearly as easy a task.
But a push is on to expand research into how well these brain stimulators tackle the most severe cases of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette’s syndrome — to know best how to use them before too many doctors and patients clamor to try.
“It’s not a light switch,” cautions Dr. Michael Okun of the University of Florida.
Unlike with tremor patients, the psychiatric patients who respond to DBS tend to improve gradually, sometimes to their frustration.
And just because the tics of Tourette’s fade or depression lightens doesn’t mean patients can abandon traditional therapy. They also need help learning to function much as recipients of hip replacements undergo physical therapy, says Dr. Helen Mayberg of Emory University.
“Once your brain is returned to you, now you have to learn to use it,” she told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Roughly 70,000 people around the world have undergone deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s or other movement disorders when standard medications fail, says Okun, among leading researchers who gathered at that meeting last week to assess the field.
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