A cure for depression Brain pacemaker puts 58% of patients into remission
After two years 92% of patients tested had responded to the treatment

People suffering from depression and bipolar disorder who don't respond to drugs and therapy could finally find relief from their symptoms thanks to a brain pacemaker.

The medical device is implanted under the skull and sends electrical impulses deep into the brain.

Isolated: Depression is a disabling illness

Isolated: Depression can be a severely debilitating illness

Scientists led by Dr Helen Mayberg from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, found 41 per cent responded to the treatment and one in five went into remission after just six months.

The trial included patients with bipolar disorder along with those with severe depression. It followed on from an earlier study by Dr Mayberg that was the first to show deep brain stimulation could help people with major depressive disorder.

In the latest trial, study participants received single-blind
stimulation for four weeks (patients did not know if the DBS system was
on or off), followed by active stimulation for 24 weeks.

Patients were
evaluated for up to two years following onset of active stimulation.
Seventeen patients were enrolled in the study.

The scientists found 41 per cent responded to the treatment while 18 per cent achieved remission in the first 24 weeks. However, these rates vastly improved as stimulation continued.

After two years of active stimulation 92 per cent had responded in some way to the treatment, while 58 per cent had achieved remission.

HOW IS DEEP BRAIN SIMULATION PERFORMED

Each study participant was implanted with two thin wire
electrodes, one on each side of the brain.

The other end of each wire
was connected under the skin of the patient's neck to a pulse generator
implanted in the chest – similar to a pacemaker – that directed the
electrical current.

Patients who achieved
remission did not experience a spontaneous relapse. Rates were similar between depressed and bi-polar patients – none of whom experienced a manic episode during treatment.

Dr Mayberg and her colleagues continue to
refine this intervention. Why and how this treatment works is
the primary focus of ongoing research.

Study co-author Paul Holtzheimer from Dartmouth Medical School said: 'Most of these patients have been in a
depressed state for many years and are disabled and isolated.

'As their depression improves, they need a process to help
them achieve full recovery that includes integration back into society.

'We hope to optimise the rate of
improvement for these patients by using a model of care that provides
psychotherapeutic rehabilitation built on evidence-based psychotherapy
but tailored to the specific individual's situation.'

The study was published Online First by Archives of General Psychiatry.

Deep brain stimulation has already been shown to help patients with chronic pain and Parkinson's disease.

For more information and advice on depression and bi polar disorder visit the Depression Alliance UK website or the Mind charity website