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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad 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.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid