Researchers study brain implant for severe depression

Researchers study brain implant for severe depression

Millions of people around the world struggle with mental health. Depression, one of the biggest factors in mental health, is controlled by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Some people deal with this through therapy, others through medication. But what if depression could be aided by a custom brain implant?

University of California researchers created and implanted a personalized device into the brain of a 36-year-old woman named Sarah who had dealt with severe depression for years. The implant stimulated the ventral capsule, a part of the brain associated with emotions. When signals indicated she was having depressive symptoms, the device administered a tiny zap that left her feeling happier and more energized.

Temporary thin wire electrodes were implanted in her brain before the permanent procedure, allowing the researchers to observe her brain activity. From there, they found the exact part of her brain that was associated with her depressive symptoms.

The team was able to calibrate the tiny electrical jolts, which for a time were administered some 300 times a day, so that she didn’t feel them.

The researchers conceded the treatment might not become a widely used technique but said developing the implant helped them better understand how to detect and change brain activity with great precision.

While researchers do not know how long the results will last, the woman said that after having the implant for over a year, her life is better.

Mental health issues may take control of some people’s lives from time to time but it is helpful to know that scientists are making headway in the battle against them.

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