“The brain is the intellectual excitement for the twenty-first century”, said neurobiologist Bill Newsome. “Being able to objectively determine changes in neural activity in different patients may give us some tools for subdividing depression on a neurobiological basis rather than based on symptoms and signs observed from the outside,” said Ron Salomon, a psychiatrist at Vanderbilt University to MedCity News.
Patients may have deficits in different brain regions or circuits and for now, there isn’t a really good way to study these differences, says Salomon, whose research group studies novel treatments for depression. One new treatment is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a surgical treatment proven to reduce some of the symptoms related to Parkinson’s, epilepsy, OCD and tremors. For over 10 years, DBS therapy has helped people with Parkinson’s get back some of the things they thought they’d lost forever. A new recording and stimulating implant developed by Medtronic, a Minneapolis based medical device company, can detect brain activity, interpret it, and use electric shocks to correct shaking or stiffness.
“The application of these devices has been limited to diseases where a simple stimulation will produce an effect and didn’t record or respond in a personalized way to the patient” says Joseph Neimat, a neurosurgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who specializes in deep brain stimulation implants. “It’s better to have a system that can anticipate or read a patient’s state and respond with an appropriate stimulus. Responsive devices may not only improve the way we currently treat a disease but open the door for a whole host of other diseases that can be treated,” explains Lothar Krinke, general manager of Medtronic’s deep brain stimulation division. The ultimate goal for Meditronic’s device is to provide responsive therapy by detecting brain signals and tweaking its output accordingly, explains Krinke.