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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid