Does Depression Respond to Deep Brain Stimulation? Research Shows Mixed Evidence!


Depression can be difficult to treat in some patients, and psychotherapy and medications do not always work. Deep brain stimulation or DBS is another option when more traditional forms of treatment fail, but how effective is DBS and does it really work? New research has shown that the current DBS techniques used may not be effective, and may work similar to a placebo. Five US medical centers took part in the study on DBS and depression, and the results showed that depression symptoms were not reduced by using DBS any more than they weer when exposed to sham stimulation. According to Johns Hopkins University and University Hospital Bonn in Germany DBS treatment expert Dr. Thomas Schlaepfer, who was not associated with the study, “On first sight, this might be seen as a crisis for the whole field of neurostimulation therapies for depression… [but we] believe that these are examples of failed studies and not failed treatments.”

When discussing deep brain stimulation and depression Biological Psychiatry editor Dr. John Krystal stated that “This study raises serious questions about the advisability of continuing to stimulate these reward regions in the manner employed in this study. It is critical to understand that this study is not a universal indictment of DBS as a strategy for depression. It may turn out that stimulating other brain regions or stimulating these regions in different ways could provide important benefit.” Further research will be needed to determine whether deep brain stimulation can help treat depression or if these techniques should be avoided instead.

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