There’s a piece in The Guardian discussing recent investigations into treating severe depression using deep brain stimulation – a technique that uses a permanently implanted electrode to stimulate a specific brain area.
This technique has been used to successfully treat some of the movement symptoms in Parkinson’s disease and is now being researched to see if it can be applied more widely.
Preliminary research by neuroscientists in Canada and the Netherlands has already suggested that the treatment could prove effective. Last year, Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University’s school of medicine in Atlanta, published the results of a decade of research which pinpointed a 2.5cm-wide part of the brain called the subgenual cingulate region (SCR) as playing a major role in dealing with affective information. The SCR is the lowest part of a deep band of tissue running along the central part of the brain. Dr Mayberg had noticed that this region was overactive in depressed people and that its activity correlated with their changing symptoms. When they were treated with antidepressant drugs, the activity went down.