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Brain Stimulation May be More Effective Than Antidepressants

For those who are dealing with debilitating depression, antidepressants are meant to provide relief. Recent research, however, has identified that more than one third of patients with depression may not be achieving a satisfactory response from their medication.

A recent post in Science Daily shows that deep brain stimulation (DBS), a form of targeted electrical stimulation in the brain, is undergoing careful testing to determine the role it could play in the treatment of patients who have not sufficiently improved during more traditional forms of treatment.

Identifying the best region of the brain to stimulate is causing a major challenge in this work. While some researchers believe the stimulation of the subgenual prefrontal cortex is important as it is the brain region implicated in depressed mood, others believe the stimulation of the region called the “anterior limb of the internal capsule,” a nerve pathway that passes through the basal ganglia, a lower brain region could be more beneficial.

Much of the testing is also being done on the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain that is associated with reward and motivation – sometimes referred to as the pleasure center of the brain. The inability to experience pleasure is one key symptom of depression. Some studies have shown that the impaired functioning of the accembens is current in depressed individuals.

“The nucleus accumbens is a brain region that animals will seek to stimulate even if they do not appear depressed…It is interesting to note that the patients in this study did not simply feel stimulated or euphoric; instead, there appeared to be reductions in depressed mood that paralleled an increase in the capacity for pleasure,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “This finding will stimulate further study on the role of the nucleus accumbens in depression and its treatment.”

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