Deep Brain Stimulation for Treatment-Resistant Depression
Treatment-resistant depression is a severely disabling disorder with no proven treatment options once multiple medications, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy have failed. Based on our preliminary observation that the subgenual cingulate region (Brodmann area 25) is metabolically overactive in treatment-resistant depression, we studied whether the application of chronic deep brain stimulation to modulate BA25 could reduce this elevated activity and produce clinical benefit in six patients with refractory depression. Chronic stimulation of white matter tracts adjacent to the subgenual cingulate gyrus was associated with a striking and sustained remission of depression in four of six patients. Antidepressant effects were associated with a marked reduction in local cerebral blood flow as well as changes in downstream limbic and cortical sites, measured using positron emission tomography. These results suggest that disrupting focal pathological activity in limbic-cortical circuits using electrical stimulation of the subgenual cingulate white matter can effectively reverse symptoms in otherwise treatment-resistant depression.