Brain implants could soon join fight against severe depression

| | February 21, 2019
2-14-2019 mood zap inline
Some electrical arrays that researchers at the University of California, San Francisco are testing sit on the surface of the brain (top); others penetrate deep into brain tissue (bottom). Image credit: K. Sellers/UCSF
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With powerful computational methods, scientists have recently zeroed in on some key features of depressed brains. Those hallmarks include certain types of brain waves in specific locations, like the one just behind and slightly above the eyes. Other researchers are focused on how to correct the faulty brain activity that underlies depression.

A small, implantable device capable of both learning the brain’s language and then tweaking the script when the story gets dark would be an immensely important clinical tool. Of the 16.2 million U.S. adults with severe depression, about a third don’t respond to conventional treatments.

Among brain regions, the orbitofrontal cortex may be one of the top networkers. It has links to diverse brain systems, many of which may be important for mood.

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“We need to have a smarter approach, rather than, ‘Put it in, turn it on and leave it on,’” says Darin Dougherty, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who is working on new stimulation methods. A system that can change its behavior depending on the patient’s needs would ultimately enable better levels of control, he says, by “driving the system in real time and steering it.”

Read full, original post: Brain-zapping implants that fight depression are inching closer to reality

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