Brain Stimulation for Treatment-Resistant Depression

July 4, 2010 · Posted in Current Treatments, Potential Treatments · Comment 

There are many methods of stimulating the brain directly, ranging from the very invasive to the non-invasive. Below we discuss deep brain stimulation, frontal lobe and vagal nerve stimulation, repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulstive therapy (in particular the new right unilateral ultra-brief pulse method), and low level magnetic fields.

illustration of rtms on a rodent
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a technique for noninvasive stimulation of the adult brain. Stimulation is produced by generating a brief, high-intensity magnetic field by passing a brief electric current through a magnetic coil. Compared with the growing number of clinical trial with rTMS, there are surprisingly few animal studies on its basic mechanisms of action, constraining the ability to perform hypothesis-driven clinical studies.

This is an Open Access image distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. From: Arias-Carrión International Archives of Medicine 2008 1:2 doi:10.1186/1755-7682-1-2

Deep Brain Stimulation

At the American Psyciatric Association meeting in San Francisco in May 2009, Giacobbe et al. reported on the results of deep brain stimulation of an anterior-ventral part of the prefrontal cortex called the subgenual cingulate cortex in patients with refractory major depressive disorder. In deep brain stimulation, electrodes are inserted directly into the brain. Twenty-one patients received this treatment in an open study at sites in Canada at McGill University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Toronto.  This multi-center trial replicated results reported by Mayberg et al. (2005) with stimulation of what is also called Broadman’s area 25, or the part of the prefrontal cortex just under the anterior part of the corpus callosum (which carries fiber tracts between the left and right sides of the brain).
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