Dr. Helen Mayberg has been borrowing from the research on Parkinson's that has proven that brain circuits may be stimulated through implanted electrodes to control the symptoms of the disease. Dr. Mayberg has identified a "toggle switch" in the brain that when stimulated seems to bring the severely depressed patients out of their depression.
From an article in the Bradenton Herald:
"Through brain mapping experiments using high-tech imaging technology, Mayberg located the exact spot of gray matter that works as a toggle switch for regulating moods and emotions.
Depression, she said, results from a complex disturbance in the brain circuitry that causes the toggle to dysfunction.
Healthy people have the ability to switch the toggle off, to move beyond sadness. For those who are depressed, the toggle gets stuck."
"Just like a pacemaker remains in the body to regulate the heartbeat, the electrodes implanted in the brain are an ongoing treatment to control the depression, she said.
Mayberg and her team tracked patients' responses over a six-month period by scanning blood flow activity in their brains.
A significant response was seen in four of the six study patients with sustained improvement throughout six months of study, Mayberg said.
While her results are promising, Mayberg cautioned deep brain stimulation is in the experimental stage. Many more studies must replicate the findings and more work needs to be done to determine the subtypes of depression that affect different people to determine under what conditions deep brain stimulation would be appropriate treatment.But her research to date indicates the brain pacemaker has the potential to offer a new treatment option that neither damages the brain nor causes side effects."
This is good news for those that live with severe depression. Not only does this research support the claim that depression and BPD is an organic brain disease (Are you listening, Michigan Legislators? Insurance Parity Now!) the research may give some hope to those that are hopeless.