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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.