The debilitating effects of a multitude of neurological and mental health disorders have been targeted through the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS).
This is a type of surgical procedure whereby very fine wires are implanted into the brain, with electrodes at the tip to send out special signals. These electrodes are connected to a pacemaker type device, known as a pulse generator, which is placed under the skin in the chest or stomach area. The aim of this surgery is to deliver high frequency stimulation to a target area to control a specific negative effect of a neurological disorder.
The phenomenal impact of this surgery is highlighted through the effects upon Parkinson’s patients, of which this treatment is predominantly used for. These individuals suffer from the inability to control their movement, such as tremors, rigidity, stiffness, and walking problems. Using this type of stimulation enables the individual to have more control over their movement through sending these electrical signals to areas of the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal signals that are the root cause of the Parkinson’s symptoms.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, a subsequent advantage of this surgery is that it reduces the need to take certain medication for the disease, thus limiting the risk of medication effects. Nonetheless, there are certain weaknesses that need to be taken into account before administration. Research has shown that deep brain stimulation does not improve the cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s, and may actually worsen them. Therefore, this type of intervention would not be suitable for individuals showing signs of dementia.
Not only does this revolutionary treatment help relieve the symptoms from Parkinson’s disease, recent research has demonstrated some very positive outlooks for treating a wide range of mental health disorders. Depression for example, has shown promising results in studies conducted that target the subgenual cingulate cortex with deep brain stimulation.
The Mental Health Foundation has expressed that almost 9% of the British population meet the criteria for depression. The need for an effective treatment that is both reversible, and medication free is therefore vital for helping those with severe mental health problems that are unresponsive to the generic treatment options.
Further research into the effects of DBS on various other brain areas that are linked to depression should be conducted to examine the full potential of this treatment. The nucleus accumbens, for example, has been strongly linked to the pathophysiology of depression. This part of the brain plays a role in the reward pathway, eliciting the pleasurable feelings and emotions associated with rewarding stimuli.
Another prevalent mental health disorder that approximately 741,504 people are living with at any one time is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This condition causes severe anxiety, as well as frequent obsessional thoughts and compulsive activity. OCD is therefore extremely intrusive on individual’s lives, and can affect their social, cognitive, and emotional wellbeing. OCD-UK has emphasised the growing evidence that Deep Brain Stimulation can be helpful to those who suffer from this condition. This research into OCD and DBS is still in its early days, yet demonstrates the direction that this treatment is heading in helping a wide array of people with different mental health conditions.
Deep brain stimulation is evidently a revolutionary treatment that can enable individuals who suffer from a variety of mental health conditions the chance to live a life that is not completely centred on the effects of their disorder. The potential benefits of this surgical treatment is extremely hopeful, and only with the phenomenal work of the researchers and their constant motivation to combat these devastating disorders will we facilitate happier, more fulfilling lives.