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Mental Health and Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an evolution of two surgical procedures that have been shown to help control symptoms of certain disorders such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, and multiple sclerosis. Researchers are now studying the use of DBS for certain types of mental disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression, that are resistant to other forms of treatment.

How Does Deep Brain Stimulation Work?

DBS uses techniques from thalamotomy and pallidotomy, which are procedures used to destroy certain areas of the brain called the thalamus and the globus pallidus, respectively, to treat various conditions. However, those procedures carry significant risks, such as paralysis, loss of vision, and loss of speech, and their effects are non-reversible.

DBS is a way to interrupt the activity of the thalamus or globus pallidus without destroying those parts of the brain as is done in thalamotomy and pallidotomy. As a result, fewer side effects are associated with DBS, which is also reversible.

DBS may be a good treatment option for hard-to-treat mental conditions, because the thalamus serves as a "relay station" for signals to and from other parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which is involved in the response to fear or stress.

Learn more about DBS.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on May 29, 2014

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