Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Long-term results of deep brain stimulation for depression

The longest follow-up study of people who underwent deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant major depression has concluded that this technique provides progressive and lasting improvements for some of them. But the investigators caution that many challenges remain before this still-experimental modality is ready for use beyond research studies.

Although it is sometimes likened to a pacemaker for the brain, deep brain stimulation is not quite that simple. In deep brain stimulation, a surgeon implants electrodes in the brain and connects them to a small electrical generator in the chest. Electricity transmitted through the electrodes modulates the transmission of signals in particular areas of the brain — although exactly how this occurs remains unclear.

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