deep brain stimulation

Today’s Throwback is from July 2008.

Let’s take a look at some government grants spent over the last several years:

  • $750,000 for the Baseball Hall of Fame (I like baseball, but geesh)
  • $70,000 for the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Appleton, Wis. (We’re planning a family reunion in Appleton just so we can all experience this exiting museum). I just love paper.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency for spending an extra $1 million to $1.2 million in 1980 to preserve a Trenton, NJ sewer as a historical monument. (I can’t add anything clever. This one speaks for itself.)
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities for a $25,000 grant in 1977 to study why people cheat, lie and act rudely on local Virginia tennis courts. (Simple answer: the people that do that are jerks)

And my personal favorite:

  • In 2001 more than $600,000 in tax money was spent on researching the sex lives of South African ground squirrels. (oooh, I hope I can get pictures.)

Why do I bring this all up? Because you’ve seen me bitch on here about some of the stupid studies regarding mental illness, such as a recently study to determine that those who are depressed commit suicide more than others.

Finally, I found a study that seems worth it’s weight in gold. The article appeared in Medical News Today. A study was conducted by scientists at the University of Toronto (God Bless the Canadians) on patients with treatment resistant depression who underwent Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). DBS uses high-frequency electrical stimulation targeted to the specific areas of the brain involved in neuropsychiatric disease (Doctors sure like big words).

In the study 20 patients received DBS for 12 months. 12 out of 20 experienced a significicant decrease in depressive symptoms by 6 months, with 7 patients essentially well with few remaining symptoms.

The way it works is by implanting 2 thin wire electrodes in the brain (one on each side). The other end of each wire was connected under the skin of the neck to a pulse generator implanted in the chest – similar to a pacemaker. Only patients who were unable to get better with most other types of antidepressant treaatment were included in the study.

The study will be further conducted by Emory University, which also will seek to determine if the same effects can be reached with those who have bipolar II.

I doubt anyone is thrilled with the idea of having wires in their brain that run down their neck, but I think this will be a godsend for those who have been untreatable for major depression. It’s high time to see a study that actually is doing something to help those who have mood disorders rather then spend money on researching the obvious. I don’t know how long or how much the depression/suicide study was, but they could have asked me and I would have told them with one word “Yes” for only 5 bucks. OK, so if I knew there was a major grant behind it, I would have asked for a $100.

Note: Since I published this in 2008, I know one person who is treated by a DBS. It looks exactly like a pacemaker and he considers it a life saver.