Brain stimulation may help manage treatment-resistant depression, according to a new research. It shows that stimulating a brain area called the orbitofrontal cortex can “significantly” improve mood of people with depression.
In the United States, over 16 million adults experience severe depressive disorder per year and it is the leading cause of disability in the country.
For the new study, the researchers used deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat 25 people who had experienced depressive symptoms. DBS is a potential therapy in which, exeperts send electrical currents to targeted brain regions through surgically implanting stimulating electrodes in the brain. Their study was published in the journal Current Biology.
Dr. Chango, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and colleagues conducted the study. The team also recruited 25 people who had mild to severe depression.
The researchers used mild electrical stimulation in participants’ brain regions and then analyzed effects on their mood. Dr. Chango and colleagues found a positive results among only those with moderate to severe depression, while people with mild depression symptoms didn’t show any effect.
The team said that stimulating the lateral orbitofrontal cortex showed significant improvements in participants’ mood.
“These observations suggest that stimulation was helping patients with serious depression experience something like a naturally positive mood state, rather than artificially boosting mood in everyone,” said Dr. Vikram Rao, an assistant professor of neurology at UCSF and the first author of the study.
Study co-author Heather Dawes, Ph.D., said, “The more we understand about depression at this level of brain circuitry, the more options we may have for offering patients effective treatments with a low risk of side effects.”