Neuron Culture

My profile of Emory neurologist Helen Mayberg is out now in Scientific American Mind. You can read either a text-only version at my website, or get the full published version, with photos and such, at the Scientific American Mind site (free to subscribers, $5 for the article for non-subscribers).

Mayberg made headlines last year when she, psychiatrist Sidney Kennedy, and neurosurgeon Andres Lozano, as the story put it,

cured eight of 12 spectacularly depressed individuals … by inserting pacemaker-like electrodes into a spot deep in the cortext known as Area 25.

I previously wrote about this trial, and one of its patients, in the New York Times Magazine; you can read that story here. The SciAm Mind profile focuses more on the development of Mayberg’s career and its place within the larger development of neuropsychiatry. There are a few new pieces about the Area 25 trial as well.


  1. #1 Evil Monkey
    August 7, 2006

    I actually had to go look up where 25 was, I never see anybody do anything with subcallosal areas.

  2. #2 David Dobbs
    August 7, 2006

    Area 25, aka the subgenual cingulate, is rather obscure. It had been largely overlooked before Mayberg — and Wayne Drevets of Washington University, working independently — found during the 1990s that this pea-sized area seemed to be a crucial conduit between the limbic areas (including the amygdala, which essentially fires fear mechanisms) and the “thinking” frontal cortex — a sort of bridge between emotion and thought, in a way. Its position — a bit of cortex just above the limbic area –suited it well to this function. And Mayberg and Drevets both found it to be particularly hyperactive in depressed people.

    That part of Mayberg’s story is told more expansively in the article I wrote about the DBS study for the Times Magazine. It’s a lovely piece of sustained detective work. Neurogeeks may enjoy reading Mayberg’s 2003 theoretical paper that came out of all this work, “Modulating dysfunctional limbic-cortical circuits in depression,” published just as she was putting together the DBS trial, or the March 2003 Neuron article in which she and her colleagues reported on the DBS trial.

    You can also find more about Area 25 via the entry.

  3. #3 Shelley Batts
    August 10, 2006

    Hi David, welcome to ScienceBlogs! I’m hosting the homegrown neuroscience carnival The Synapse, please submit, if you like.

  4. #4 somnilista, FCD
    August 14, 2006

    by inserting pacemaker-like electrodes into a spot deep in the cortext known as Area 25.

    I can’t wait until they do studies on the mysterious Area 51.

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