"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Mental Health: Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an evolution of two surgical procedures which have been shown to assist control the symptoms of certain diseases akin to Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and multiple sclerosis. Researchers are currently studying the usage of DBS for certain kinds of mental disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression, which can be immune to other types of treatment.

DBS is a neurosurgical procedure that involves implanting electrodes into specific areas of the brain, which then electrically stimulate those areas. Depending on which brain areas are being stimulated, various kinds of brain functions (akin to movement, fear or emotions) could be affected. For example, DBS is utilized in psychiatry to treat medication-refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), targeting specific brain areas regarded as involved in OCD, akin to the nucleus accumbens, anterior limb of the inner capsule, and the lower thalamic nucleus and subthalamic nucleus.

DBS can be being studied for the treatment of severe, drug-resistant depression, with a concentrate on brain regions related to mood, akin to the ventral striatum, nucleus accumbens, subgenual cingulate cortex, lateral habenula, inferior thalamic nucleus, and the medial forebrain bundles. In addition to the overall risks of major surgery (e.g. pain or infection), DBS risks include headaches, seizures, confusion, brain bleeding and stroke.

DBS appears to be a promising but still experimental consideration for some types of difficult-to-treat mental illness. However, more research is required before it becomes a “mainstream” treatment for refractory psychiatric illnesses.