Brain Pacemakers and Depression
I’ve put in many pacemakers during my cardiology career. These were, of course, for cardiac arrhythmias. Back in the day, a pacemaker weighed more than a pound, was inserted into the abdomen, and then the leads were tunneled through the diaphragm and screwed into the heart muscle. A big procedure with many complications that requires general anesthesia. Oh yeah, and they lasted about 18 months. Now, these devices are small, lightweight, and installed under the skin just beneath the clavicle (collar bone), and are done under local anesthesia in about 30 minutes. In most people, they last more than a decade before battery replacement is needed. We’ve come a long way since the first cardiac pacemaker was implanted in 1958.
More recently the use of these devices has expanded into other medical arenas. They have become increasingly useful in neuropsychiatric illnesses like OCD and maybe depression. For one woman it seems to have helped control her severe depression. If this works out, it could be a game changer for this difficult to manage condition.
Brain pacemakers aren’t new. They’ve been used, and are under active investigation, for several neuropsychiatric conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease, OCD, seizures, Alzheimer’s Disease, and now perhaps depression.
MIT Technology Review: Brain Pacemakers: