News / Health

Electric Jolt Could Right the Brain

Deep brain stimulation can treat obsessive-compulsive disorders, OCD, and some forms of depression

New research suggests patients with disorders such as obsessive-compulsive behavior, depression, Parkinson's Disease and Tourette's syndrome might be helped by having deep brain stimulation devices implanted in the brain.
New research suggests patients with disorders such as obsessive-compulsive behavior, depression, Parkinson's Disease and Tourette's syndrome might be helped by having deep brain stimulation devices implanted in the brain.

Multimedia

Vidushi Sinha

Sending electric current through a thin, wire electrode implanted deep in the brain could do what a cardiac pacemaker does for the heart.  Researchers say there is new evidence that a procedure called "deep brain stimulation," or DBS, can treat a variety of obsessive compulsive disorders, or OCD, and some severe forms of depression.

After drug and behavior therapy failed to help his psychiatric patients, Dr. Benjamin Greenberg found DBS made a difference.

"Based on the evidence that we have now, it is about as effective as the lesion procedures have been, which is just over half the patients will be better enough to make it worth doing," says Greenberg, who takes a cautious approach in deciding whether to employ the procedure.  He believes it should be used only after all conventional psychiatric treatments have been exhausted.

The surgically implanted electrodes are not a cure. The wires in the brain only improve the functioning of the patients who are otherwise disabled by their compulsions.

"Compulsions are things you do in response, usually, to your obsessions," Greenberg says. "There are things that somebody could see like washing their hands, counting or touching arranging things over and over again or they can things that are hidden checking things mentally or even praying silently."

So far about 70,000 people worldwide have had deep brain stimulation devices implanted.  Over the past 10 years, only about 70 patients in the United States have undergone deep brain stimulation to treat their OCD.

The technology has also been used in patients with severe depression who have not responded to other treatments.  And it has been deployed experimentally against Parkinson's disease, helping to reduce the characteristic tremors.  But medical experts say deep brain stimulation is still a long way from being a standard clinical treatment for mental disorders.

"There has not been a major advance since many years, there are many things now in the pipeline," says Dr Mahlon Delong, professor of Neurology at Emory University, "But in terms of, 'Does it help us in the clinic?' Not yet."

Side effects like bleeding, infections and seizures during the operation are possible and some seizures have also been reported during treatment. The procedure is still highly experimental, and some believe much more research is needed before we know if it's effective.

"A therapy is something that is both safe and effective and this is still investigational," says Dr Joseph Fins of the Weill Cornell Center. "It’s still not vetted to be proven efficacious."

It is also not clear yet exactly where in the brain DBS electrodes should be inserted to target specific psychiatric diseases.

DBS raises an even more fundamental ethical question: whether a psychiatrist can be sure enough of a diagnosis to justify surgically entering a patient's brain.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs