An electrical implant located in the skull and connected to the brain can recognize and cure severe depression, according to U.S. scientists after the results with the first patient they say promise.
Sara, 36, underwent the installation of the device more than a year ago and says it completely changed her life.
A matchbox-sized device on your head is always “on,” but it only sends a boost when you sense it can be useful to you.
This experimental study is described in the journal Nature Medicine.
Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco point out that it is too early to say whether it can help other patients, such as Sarah, with depression that are difficult to treat, but are optimistic and plan to conduct more tests.
Sara is the first person to undergo this experimental therapy.
In recent years she has undergone unsuccessful treatments such as antidepressants and electroconvulsive therapy.
Such an operation may seem daunting, but Sarah said the chance of getting “any relief” was better than the darkness she was experiencing.
“I have exhausted all possible treatment options.”
“My daily life has become very tight. I felt tormented every day. I could barely move or do anything.”
The operation consisted of drilling small holes in the skull to stretch wires that controlled and stimulated his brain.
A box with a battery and a dust generator is built into the bone, into the skull under the hair.
The procedure lasted an entire working day and was performed under complete anesthesia, meaning Sara was unconscious the entire time.
Sarah says when she woke up she felt euphoric.
“When the implant was first inserted, my life improved instantly. My life has been pleasant again. “
“Within a few weeks, suicidal thoughts disappeared.”
“If I found myself in a deep depression, I would only see ugly things.”
A year later, Sara is still well, with no side effects.
“The device saved me from depression and allowed me to get back to the best version of myself and rebuild a life worth living.”
It does not intuit exactly when the device is activated, but adds:
“I can probably tell you 15 minutes after his appearance, because of the sense of alertness and energy or positivity I’m starting to feel.”
How it works
Researcher Katarina Skangos, a university psychiatrist, said the innovation was made possible by the location of the “depression circuits” in Sarah’s brain.
“We found a location, which is an area called the ventral stratum, where the stimulation constantly eliminated their depressive feelings.”
“And we’ve found an area of brain activity in the amygdala that can predict when its symptoms are most severe.”
Scientists say much more research is needed to try this experimental therapy and determine if it can help more people with major depression, and perhaps some other conditions.
“We need to study how these circuits vary in patients and repeat this work several times,” says Dr. Skangos.
He has hired two more patients for testing and hopes to recruit nine more.
“We also need to see if a person’s biomarker or brain circuit changes over time as treatment continues.”
“We didn’t know if we would be able to cure her depression because she was very strong.”
“And in that sense, we’re really excited about all of this. That’s very necessary now in this area.”
Dr. Edward Cheng, the neurosurgeon who implanted the device, said, “To be clear, this is not a demonstration of the effectiveness of this approach.”
“It’s just the first demonstration that works for everyone and we still have a long way to go to confirm these results and see if it can actually be used as a regular treatment option.”
Professor Jonathan Roiser, a neuroscience expert at University College London, UK, said:
“While this type of extremely invasive surgery would only be used in more severe patients with incurable symptoms, it is an exciting step forward thanks to the nature of bespoke stimulation.”
“Testing in other patients is very likely to require different imaging and stimulation, as it is likely that the precise brain circuits behind the symptoms will vary from individual to individual.”
“Because we have only had one patient so far and we have not had control conditions, it remains to be seen whether these promising results will be maintained in clinical trials.”
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