Deep Brain Stimulation- Teleporting to the Desired Address

I am also very interested in Deep Brain Stimulation, and looked at the sites that Sara posted and some others.  In response to your question, Sara, t does seem like it could be a life-long cure, although the pacemaker would need to be continuously running to maintain the effects.

In deep brain stimulation, electrodes are inserted into the brain and are connected with wires under the skin to an electronic impulse generator implanted in the chest. The electrodes emit current that continuously stimulates specific areas of the brain.

So, while there are clear advantages to the many and often conflicting side effects of medication, DBS had the disadvantage of requiring an electrode in your brain for your whole life.  Although, compared to taking medication daily, it could be less of an interference once the patient becomes accustomed to it.  I wonder how much maintenance something like this would require (how often would it need to be checked, re-adjusted, etc.)  Also, knowing how amazingly plastic brains are, do you think the brain of a depressed person would adjust over time to the stimulation and require increasingly more stimulation to have the original effects?  I was interested to read in the article that Sara posted that stimulating the brain did not activate an area that was not active enough.  Rather, it does the reverse, and somehow the electrode stimulation calms a hyperactive area (Brodmann-25).  The article at this site (http://www.dana.org/news/cerebrum/detail.aspx?id=12622) that Sara provided (sorry for stealing your info Sara, but it’s really good and I wanted to make sure everyone saw!)  gave some great insight into why this area in particular is being stimulated.   I liked this quote because it explained in non-biologist terms the interaction of the different areas in the circuit that was focused on.

First, Mayberg mapped the depressed brain on medications, then on therapy and then on a placebo pill. Each step of the way, she carefully charted the brain as if it were a city of streets and avenues. She realized that treatments took different roads but ultimately arrived at the same address. That was why people with depression could get better many different ways, even with a placebo pill.  The limbic structures that regulate mood feed into the frontal cortex, striatum, thalamus, hypothalamus and brain stem. These regions communicate with one another all the time, and problems in the circuit could lead to difficulty with thinking, attention, mood and behavior. Mayberg found that these circuits, particularly a hyperactive network of brain cells in the subgenual cingulate region, also called Brodmann area 25, are abnormally overactive in depression.

I’m still not clear on how a placebo pill affects those “roads” that lead to the same address, but the metaphor was interesting.  If I were to extend the metaphor to other anti-depressant treatments, it seems like many medications like Prozac etc. would be s slew of taking a bus, catching a train, walking to find a taxi, which might end up having a flat tire and not getting you there after all.  I don’t know that much about ECT, but it seems a little more direct, so maybe calling a (more reliable) cab company to get you somewhere, while DBS is teleporting.  DBS would definitely win the time race, but not everyone can afford to teleport, and once you teleport once, you’re not going to want to go back to the first route!

I’ve been looking a lot for that video that Melissa mentioned that has interviews with patients while they are getting electrode signals turned on/off, but haven’t found it yet.  I’ll keep looking and post it if I find it!

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3 thoughts on “Deep Brain Stimulation- Teleporting to the Desired Address

  1. I wonder if deep brain stimulation is going to be the new wave of surgery. I worry though, because when you are going into the brain, you are inevitably destroying neural tissue, even if you try your hardest not to. What kind of contributions does this procedure have when it comes to interfering with normal brain function? Do you think it could also have the capacity to make the patient suffer more?

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  2. Deep brain stimulation seems so intense. Is it really the best way to fix a problem that is sometimes resolved with placebo pills? I also am unsure how placebo pills would really work for depression if depression has such strong roots in biology. Do placebos really alter biology? Also, what is something went wrong with deep brain stimulation? What are the side effects and risks? I’m still not sold on the idea of deep brain stimulation

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  3. I really like the metaphor that you quoted! It gives a nice image of just how complicated this system is. It shows that there are so many routs that all end up effecting each other along the way. It also gets at what were talking about in class today, that each system really has different contributions to depression, and treatments to these different systems all have their consequences. There is still so much to map out on these streets!

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