Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Effects on Depression


Sober Recovery Expert Author


Currently, the most common way to treat depression is with antidepressant medications and cognitive therapy. However, studies that use a procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) may have found a profound and effective way to treat depression.

Studies on DBS and Depression

Researchers hope that one day DBS may become a secondary or alternative treatment to antidepressant medications. Though antidepressants are an effective treatment for managing depression, there are also drawbacks such as side effects. There’s also the notion that antidepressants are a “one size fits all” solution to depression rather than something that can be tailored to each individual. There is no way to individualize antidepressant medication.

Recent studies show DBS may be an effective alternative treatment to antidepressant medications.

More and more studies on the treatment of depression show that DBS may have the potential to be even more effective at treating depression than most traditional methods. DBS sends precise, timed electric pulses into targeted regions of the brain using a surgically implanted electrode. The electrode’s frequency levels can be determined by doctors who can adjust them to fix “faulty” circuits within the brain. According to scientists, dysfunctional circuits within the brain may cause some of the psychiatric and neurological disorders commonly found in people, including depression.

Inside Deep Brain Stimulation

The idea of dysfunctional circuits is not a strange one. Our thoughts, sensations, impulses, and movements are all a result of neurons in the brain electronically firing. If a circuit is faulty, it can possibly result in resistant neuropsychiatric disorders such as Tourette’s Syndrome, Major Depression, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Clinical trials of DBS show encouraging results that include a decrease in depressive symptoms when used in conjunction with therapies such as cognitive and behavioral therapy.

Furthermore, DBS works by delivering a high-frequency current deep into subcortical regions of the brain to prompt the electronic flow into a more functional state. Currently, DBS treatment has been approved by the FDA for specific conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Clinical studies have shown that when used in patients with depression, there are positive results for a significant portion of the patients.

Advancements in Depression Treatment

DBS is a groundbreaking type of treatment and research is still being conducted, however, current studies show positive findings. Although antidepressants continue to be the preferred method of treatment, DBS is a more precise method that can be used to specify where in the brain treatment is being done, to what amount, and with what level of control.

Though clinical and ethical questions about DBS remain, the procedure and studies are no doubt encouraging for patients with certain psychiatric disorders. With continued study, DBS may prove to be effective for patients who suffer from disorders that require precision treatment.

More studies and data are needed for further decisions on this type of psychiatric treatment, but as the field expands to larger studies and results, and considerations are taken into account, the hope is that DBS may eventually be a viable treatment option for those who remain severely affected with neuropsychiatric diseases.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from depression, please visit our directory of depression treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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