Woman Receives Electric Brain Implant to Fight Depression

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Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, have conducted a new trial in which they implemented a deep brain stimulation implant in a patient to treat her depression. The brain implant produces electrical signals for those who suffer from depression and do not respond to traditional medicine. The details of the trial were published in Nature Medicine Journal. 


Deep brain stimulation is the process behind the brain implant


The team explains that the process inside the brain after inserting the implant is deep brain stimulation. Neural biomarkers treat signs of depression in the brain using ‘multi-day intracranial electrophysiology and focal electrical stimulation. After more than 15 months since the operation, the researchers wrote the article and concluded that the DBS technique was successful and safe for the patient. 


The patient is a 36-year-old woman who has been suffering from major depression since a young age. Researchers from the University of California first identified patterns of brainwave that would indicate depression. The electrical stimulation of the implant would detect the pattern and treat it. 


Years of research were behind the trial


The UCSF team customized the DBS for the patient they operated on, offering her a solution to the major depression she has been trying to manage for years. One author of the study, Andrew Krystal, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences declared that many years of work in the field were behind the successful trial. He traces the beginning to Edward Chang, MD, ECSF neurosurgeon, and his colleagues, who began working on depression in a patient undergoing surgery for epilepsy. Prof. Andrew Krystal further explains: 

The research team discovered patterns of electrical brain activity that correlated with mood states and identified new brain regions that could be stimulated to relieve depressed mood. 

With results from the previous research as a guide, Chang, Krystal, and first author Katherine Scangos, MD, PhD, all members of the Weill Institute, developed a strategy relying on two steps that had never been used in psychiatric research: mapping a patient’s depression circuit and characterizing her neural biomarker. 

The sucess of this trial opened the road for many others to come. 

Cezara Radu
Cezara is passionate about South Korean culture and an enthusiast of the Hallyu wave. She writes about Kpop, Kdrama, Korean cuisine and South Korean brands. Discover the latest Knews and learn more about your favourite idols.