Brain Stimulation As A Possible Cure For Depression, New Study Suggests


Depression and the lack of awareness concerning mental health have imposed an impending stigma that not many people have been able to overcome. While therapy and prescription drugs are definitely an option, researchers have been working to source more of a substantial treatment for the condition.

A new study (R) suggests that the stimulation of a specific part of the brain is believed to help patients struggling with depression feel good. The electrical stimulation on the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has been associated with an acute improvement in one’s mood. These results were based around the brain activity noted in the subjects who participated in the study.

The impacts of the electrical stimulation didn’t inflict any kind of noticeable changes in the patients who didn’t showcase any form of mood symptoms. Rather, they were predominant in the people who did have influencing mood disruptions. This differential evidence did confirm that the same was only effective in the mood related neural circuitry.

Vikram Rao, the lead author of the study from the University of California stated that the stimulation of the OFC resulted in the induction of brain activities in the brain regions which were similar to the patterns one experiences when patients naturally tend to experience positive mood states. This resulted in the researchers concluding that OFC is actually the primary centre associated with the treatment of the mood disorders.

The entire study was led by Rao along with Kristen Sellers who conducted the entire study in the lab of Dr. Edward Chang in which they studied around 25 patients suffering from epilepsy. The patients were made to sit with electrodes places in the brain to note the origin of their seizures. Majority of these patients, as a side effect of their epilepsy, did suffer from depression as well.

This was the basis of the study. With the granted permission from each one of the patients, the researchers administered small electrical impulses to the area of the brain associated with the handling of our moods. Following collecting all the records, the researchers simply paid close attention to every single change in the neural and behavioral outputs from the patients.

There have been prior studies focusing on the deep brain stimulation (DBS) for the various mood disorders but the studies did have their fair share of limitations. The success of these stimulations was quite specific on the area of stimulation which did have to be quite specific. The other targets in the brain related to one’s boost in the mood haven’t always produced successful results.

In this new study, the researchers had their sole focus on the stimulation of the OFC. The OFC is believed to be the hub for every kind of mood related circuitry. But, the downside is the fact that this region is one of the least understood parts of the brain.

The lead co-author of the study, Kristen Seller stated that even though the OFC is more of a superficial target, the kind of interconnections that it has is definitely what attracts majority of the attention to this part of the brain. It is associated with emotional processing which was what paved way for more study. This was the primary reason why it paved ways for it being a target for the therapeutic stimulation.

During the study, the researchers used the places electrodes to stimulate the OFC all the while they were noting down the verbal mood reports along with the questionnaire scores. Following the evaluation of the data, it was found that the unilateral stimulation of the lateral OFC was responsible for acute, dose-dependent mood-state improvement in subjects with moderate-to-severe baseline depression.

Upon observing the brain activity, the researchers found that the changes in the neural activity following the stimulation mimicked that of the times when people are naturally in a good mood. Not only does this relay the fact that the bad moods are predominantly dependant on the brain circuitry, but it also paved way for evidence that the stimulation of the target brain parts can actually help in immediately improving one’s overall mood.

Following the extraction of all these evidence, the researchers are still adamant on the need for more in-depth research on the deep brain stimulation. According to them, it does need more evidence on its possible associated side effects or such. Dr. Rao suggests that his end goal is to ensure that he can work to provide a definite treatment for the people suffering from depression.