04/13/06 - surgery and depression

In today's excerpt - experimental surgery in the cases of extremely depressed patients where drug and talk therapy have not been successful:

"Finally, in the spring of 2004 ... Dr. Gebreihiwot Abraham, received a fax from a University of Toronto research team asking if he had an appropriate candidate for a clinical trial of a new, experimental surgery for treatment-resistant depression.  The operation borrowed a procedure called deep brain stimulation, or D.B.S, which is used to treat Parkinson's.  It involves planting electrodes in a region near the center of the brain called Area 25 and sending in a steady stream of low voltage from a pacemaker in the chest.

"... [Researchers] found that Area 25 was smaller in most depressed patients; that it lighted up in every form of depression and also in nondepressed people who intentionally pondered sad things, that it dimmed when depression was successfully treated; and that it was heavily wired to brain areas modulating fear, learning, memory, sleep, libido, motivation, reward and other functions that went fritzy in the depressed.

"As it turned out, 8 of the 12 patients he operated on ... felt their depression lift while suffering minimal side effects—an incredible rate of effectiveness in patients so immovably depressed.  Nor did they just vaguely recover.  Their scores on the Hamilton depression scale ... (became) essentially normal."


David Dobbs


A Depression Switch?


The New York Times Magazine


April 2, 2006


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