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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid