Brain implant relieves depression

In especially severe cases, neither drugs nor electroconvulsive therapy can help from depression, in whatever combinations they are used. Such patients can only hope for the latest treatment methods, such as the one they write about in Nature Medicine researchers from the Weyl Institute of Neurobiology at University of California, San Francisco… They created an implant for electrical stimulation of the deep layers of the brain: extremely thin electrodes are inserted into a specific area of ​​the brain and stimulate this area with weak discharges.

In fact, neuroscientists have long been studying the possibilities of such electrical brain stimulation for the treatment of various neuropsychiatric diseases, from depression to drug addiction. But in the case of depression, such studies usually end in different ways – the effect is, then there is no. The authors of the work believe that the whole point is that usually the implant works all the time. In their experiments, everything was different: the implant read the activity of the brain and, using a special algorithm, guessed the approach of an attack of depression – accordingly, the implant sent antidepressant impulses when it was needed.

However, from a neurobiological point of view, depression is quite multifaceted. Our mood and emotions depend on several neural centers, and depression in different people occurs due to malfunctions in different neural networks. That is, an individual approach is needed here, and this is exactly the individual approach that the researchers showed with one patient with severe clinical depression. The tests lasted ten days, and it turned out that the whole thing was in the signals that went to the amygdala from the area on the border of the so-called lower capsule and the lower zone of the striatum.

To place the implant, a hole with a diameter of 1.5 mm was made in the skull, through which electrodes were inserted into the amygdala (amygdala) and into the above-mentioned area between the lower capsule and the lower zone of the striatum. The electrode in the amygdala monitored when it began to generate depressive signals, and at that moment another electrode stimulated the aforementioned border region to bring the amygdala back to normal. The patient received about 300 stimulations per day, which lasted for a total of about half an hour. In fact, the implant works as a cardiac pacemaker, which helps the heart muscle to stay in the correct rhythm – only here, instead of the heart, there will be one or another area of ​​the brain prone to depressive activity.

The patient really got rid of depression, at least from especially severe attacks. She was no longer tormented by suicidal thoughts, her mood improved, and in general her life went well from the moment when she received an electrostimulating implant – and this happened in the summer of last year. The implant is powered by a battery that is embedded in the bones of the skull and which should last for 10 years (so there is no need for too frequent surgeries to replace a dead battery). Stimulation is not everything, and the patient will need to work with therapists, but with an implant she will at least be able to follow their recommendations. So far, this is the first and only example of such treatment for depression, but there is every reason to believe that a similar approach will work for other patients.

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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