Patient with Severe Depression Successfully Treated with Electrical Brain Implant

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) on Monday have successfully treated a woman with severe depression using an experimental brain implant that detects and resets negative brain activity.

The researchers published the study in the Nature Medicine journal commenting that it was “a landmark success” in the scientific effort to treat psychiatric disorders through carefully targeted neural electronics.

The implant works by detecting patterns of brain activity linked to depression and automatically interrupting them using tiny pulses of electrical stimulation delivered deep inside the brain.

“The device has kept my depression at bay, allowing me to return to my best self and rebuild a life worth living,” said the 36-year-old patient who asked just to be called Sarah and is the subject of the study.

Deep brain stimulation is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and several other disorders but isn’t approved for treating depression by federal regulators because of inconsistent results. 

About 30% of people with depression don’t respond to standard treatments or find the side effects intolerable.

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