(Image credit: John B. Carnett)
The September issue of Popular Science magazine has an article about one of the first clinical trials in which deep brain stimulation is being used to treat patients with severe depression who do not respond to drugs or electroconvulsive therapy.
The image above shows Diane Hire, one of 17 patients enrolled in the trial, which is being conducted at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. The X-ray on the right shows the position of the electrodes that have been implanted in Hire’s brain.
According to the article, the procedure takes about 4 hours. It involves drilling two holes in the top of the skull (one on each side; the hole on the left side of the skull is visible in the X-ray), through which the electrodes are fed. The electrodes are powered by batteries that are embedded under the collarbones.
The part of the brain that is targeted is the subgenual cingulate region, a small area found near the midline towards the back of the frontal lobe. Imaging studies have shown that this area is over-active in depression, and an earlier trial showed that continual stimulation of the area produced sustained remission in 4 out of 6 severely depressed patients.