Treating Depression with Electrodes Inside the Brain

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"The procedure, called deep brain stimulation, targets a small brain structure known as Area 25, the 'ringleader' for the brain circuits that control our moods."

CNN Health, Sanjay Gupta and Andy Segal

The first time Edi Guyton tried to commit suicide, she was 19 years old, wracked with depression and unable to deal with the social and academic pressure of college.

She often thought about taking her own life, and one night in her college dorm, Guyton's dark thoughts gave way to action. With a razor blade, Guyton cut one wrist, then the other.

"I think I wanted it to get better or I wanted to die," she said. "The point was that everything was so bad, I wanted people to know that it was controlling me."

Edi Guyton depression controlled her life for the next 40 years—until she decided to volunteer for an experimental treatment. A neurosurgeon would drill two holes in Guyton's skull and implant a pair of battery-powered electrodes deep inside her brain.

The procedure—called deep brain stimulation, or DBS—targets a small brain structure known as Area 25, the "ringleader" for the brain circuits that control our moods, according to neurologist Dr. Helen Mayberg.

Mayberg's groundbreaking research on this part of the brain showed that Area 25 is relatively overactive in depressed patients. So, Mayberg hypothesized that in patients who do not improve with other treatments, Area 25 was somehow stuck in overdrive.

Mayberg published the results of her brain scan studies in 1999, the same year Edi Guyton attempted suicide again—this time an overdose of prescription meds that were supposed to ease her depression.

"It's not that you won't be happy or that you aren't happy; it's that you can't be happy," Guyton said. . .View Full Article

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