A 36-year old woman was at the end of the line, so to speak, unable to find any working treatments for her depression. Using electrodes implanted in various regions of the brain, clinicians mapped the activity in major brain areas involved in emotion.
Over the course of ten days, clinicians could see what happened in the brain when the woman experienced symptoms of depression. Based on the electrical patterns in her brain, they then identified specific patterns of activity which occurred during severe depressive symptoms.
In the past, researchers used different techniques to measure the effects of electrical stimulation across different brain circuits in depression. Now, they could put all they learned to the test — designing personalized therapy for severe depression.
Zapping the brain reset the circuitry when it started experiencing problems, not unlike restarting a computer.
The team then customized a deep brain stimulation device. One electrode would be placed to continuously track electrical activity in the brain area where altered electrical activity was linked to the woman’s depressive symptoms. A stimulating lead was placed in a region of the depression circuit that best alleviated these symptoms.
If the first electrode detected depressive-like electrical activity, it sent a signal to the stimulating lead to provide a small dose of electricity for 6 seconds, changing the electrical activity. Zapping the brain reset the circuitry when it started experiencing problems, not unlike restarting a computer.
The woman, who wants to be referred to as Sarah, has now lived with the device in her brain for 15 months. In a press release, Sarah explained:
“I was severely depressed. I could not see myself continuing if this was all I’d be able to do, if I could never move beyond this. It was not a life worth living.”