Deep Brain Stimulation & The Age of the Brain

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure in which an electrode is inserted into a certain part of the brain to send electrical impulses to the nerves.  Currently, it’s an accepted practice (FDA approved) for the treatment of Parkinson’s, essential tremor, and dystonia patients.  But I believe this is just the beginning of what we are going to see for indications of DBS.

Currently, there is studies looking at whether DBS can be used in patients with depression (Jiménez, Fiacro et al.) or even addiction (Vassoler et al.). This is huge. This means that in the near future, we could have a surgical treatments for a bunch of brain pathologies that are currently extremely difficult to treat. Just think about it, treatment for drug resistant depression, bipolar, addiction, seizures, Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phantom limb pains, Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, psychosis, and others. This is a gigantic step in the right direction for neurosurgery, neurology, and psychiatry in the ultimate pursuit in understanding how the brain works.  

Now obviously a surgical procedure for these disorders and syndromes is not the ideal situation since any surgery carries inherent risks.  But hopefully the research and understanding that comes from studying patients who undergo DBS for treatment will lead to a better understanding of all of these brain pathologies, and take us down the road to the future of neurological treatment.  

I think it is these DBS patients and studies that will help us unravel some of the mysteries of the brain, and I really look forward to it.  I think this point in history is the “Age of the Brain.”

Jimenez F, Velasco F, Salin-Pascual R, Hernandez JA, Velasco M, Criales JL, et al: A patient with a resistant major depres- sion disorder treated with deep brain stimulation in the infe- rior thalamic peduncle. Neurosurgery 57:585–593, 2005

Fair M. Vassoler, Heath D. Schmidt, Mary E. Gerard, Katie R. Famous, Domenic A. Ciraulo, Conan Kornetsky, Clifford M. Knapp, and R. Christopher Pierce : Deep Brain Stimulation of the Nucleus Accumbens Shell Attenuates Cocaine Priming-Induced Reinstatement of Drug Seeking in Rats. The Journal of Neuroscience, August 27, 2008. 28(35):8735– 8739 8735