A multidisciplinary team at the Hadassah Medical Center is testing the use of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) to alleviate depression in severely affected patients.
The Hadassah team includes physicians from Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, the Medical Neurobiology Department, and the Center for Functional and Restorative Surgery. The experimental procedure is part of an international clinical trial being conducted in several European countries and Israel. In order to be accepted into the study, patients must have already tried at least three different drug treatments as well as electro-convulsive therapy and failed to attain relief.
The treatment involves the insertion of two electrodes into symmetrical areas of the brain, known to affect mood regulation. “There is evidence of increased activity in these areas among the severely depressed,” explains Prof. Benjamin Lerer, head of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory. The electric current, he relates, reduces that activity and gradually affects the patient’s mood.
The electrodes, in turn, are connected to filaments that are implanted under the scalp, reaching to the chest wall where the operating unit—a computer and a battery—are implanted. Dr. Zvi Israel, Director of the Center for Functional and Restorative Surgery, reports that they have found that “treating the severely depressed with DBS has a 70 percent success rate.”
DBS has been used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder since 2009 and Parkinson’s severe tremors since 2002.