Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Depression: New Therapy Gives Reason for Hope

19.04.2007
A study at the University Clinics of Bonn and Cologne gives people with therapy-resistant depression reason for hope. The doctors treated two men and a woman with what is known as deep brain stimulation.

All three patients have been suffering from very severe depression for several years which could neither be brought under control using medication nor by other therapies. During the simulation the condition of two of the three patients improved within a few days. Initial changes were even noticeable in a matter of minutes. The research team warn against exaggerated expectations in view of the small number of patients involved. Nevertheless, the results of the preliminary study are so sensational that they have now been published in the renowned journal Neuropsychopharmacology (doi:).

In deep brain stimulation (DBS) electrodes are implanted selectively in certain areas of the brain and are stimulated using an electric pulse generator. Up to now the procedure has mainly been used in the treatment of Parkinson’s. It is currently being investigated whether it also helps with certain psychiatric diseases such as compulsive behavioural disorders. Initial tests on about two dozen patients worldwide also show that it could possibly also have an effect in the case of severe depression.

Previous tests have concentrated mainly on two areas of the brain in particular. ‘By contrast we stimulated a third region, the nucleus accumbens,’ the Bonn Professor of Psychiatry, Thomas E. Schläpfer, explains. The nucleus accumbens is an important part of what is known as the ‘reward system’. It ensures that we remember good experiences and puts us in a state of pleasurable anticipation. Without the reward system we would not make plans for the future, simply because we could not enjoy the fruits of these plans. ‘Inactivity and inability to enjoy things are two important signs of depression,’ Profesor Schläpfer emphasises. ‘The conclusion is therefore obvious that the nucleus accumbens plays a key role in the genesis of the disease.’

Initial effects minutes after onset of therapy

In their study the researchers report on two men and a woman who have been suffering from very severe depression for years. The researchers implanted electrodes in the nucleus accumbens, which they were able to stimulate using an electric pulse generator in the chest. Some of the effects were observable instantly. ‘One of the patients expressed the desire to go to the top of Cologne Cathedral a minute after the start of the stimulation and put this into practice the next day,’ Thomas Schläpfer says. ‘The woman treated was similar. She said she would enjoy going bowling again.’ Nevertheless, the patients did not notice a direct improvement in their mood. Nor could they tell whether the pulse generator was switched on or off.

In the first few days of the DBS the symptoms of depression improved significantly in two of the three patients. Their condition remained constant for as long as they were undergoing treatment. However, as soon as the pulse generator was switched off, the depression recurred with full intensity. ‘The recurring symptoms were so severe that for ethical reasons we could not permit the treatment to be interrupted for as long as we had originally planned,’ Professor Schläpfer emphasises.

While psychotropics generally interfere with the biochemistry of the brain, DBS acts locally in the affected areas. The doctors did not observe any side effects like those occurring after the use of antidepressants. The patients only complained about post-operative pain at the site of implantation. In the long term DBS does not seem to pose any major risks. There have been patients with Parkinson’s who have been using this kind of brain pacemaker for more than ten years without experiencing any problems.

‘Preliminary results’

Even so, the research team caution against exaggerated expectations. ‘Of course, with so few patients, these are only fairly preliminary results,’ Professor Schläpfer says. ‘Our follow-up experiments are showing even now that by no means every patient will respond to this therapy.’ In the case of operations on the brain, in particular, ethical factors also need to be taken into account, not least because such operations are always risky. For that reason, there were particularly stringent conditions attached to the patients’ consent. ‘One thing has certainly been demonstrated by our research and that of others: DBS can help some people with depression even in cases which were assumed to be resistant to therapy.’

Prof Thomas E. Schläpfer | alfa
Further information:
http://www.jhmi.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht One gene closer to regenerative therapy for muscular disorders
01.06.2017 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

nachricht The gut microbiota plays a key role in treatment with classic diabetes medication
01.06.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>