Rewiring the brain

An innovative new therapy offers potential help for those with treatment-resistant depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), reports the CBC’s online

An innovative new therapy offers potential help for those with treatment-resistant depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), reports the CBC’s online health news. Scientists in several research centres are testing “brain pacemakers” that change the workings of the brains of those who are severely depressed.

While still in the initial experimental stage for psychiatric illnesses, brain pacemakers are already being used to block the tremors of people with Parkinson’s and similar diseases in more than 40,000 patients worldwide. But depression, OCD and other psychiatric illnesses are far more complex. These new studies use brain pacemakers to provide deep brain stimulation that changes how the brain’s nerve circuitry fires.

Studies by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, Brown University and Belgium’s University of Leuven found that six of 17 severely depressed patients were in remission a year after undergoing deep brain stimulation and four more markedly improved. They also found that more than half of 26 patients who were obsessive-compulsive showed substantial improvement over three years.

However, experts warn that brain pacemakers are still an experimental invasive procedure and it will be some time before this procedure is widely available.

Has severe depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder seriously affected someone in your life? Have current treatments proven helpful?

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