Deep brain stimulation

• Physicians at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have successfully treated a patient with severe depression by recognising and tapping into the brain circuits linked with depressive brain patterns.

About:

• The physicians have tried to reset these patterns, which they have said is the equivalent of using a pacemaker for the heart. The work, which represents a landmark in the use of neuroscience to treat psychiatric disorders, has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

• The doctors used an existing technique called deep brain stimulation (DBS), customising it for this patient’s case.

• DBS is a surgical procedure in which electrodes are implanted into certain brain areas. These electrodes, or leads, generate electrical impulses that control abnormal brain activity.

• The electrical impulses can also adjust for the chemical imbalances within the brain that cause various conditions.

A DBS system has three components:

1. The electrode, or lead. This is a thin, insulated wire inserted through a small opening in the skull and implanted into a specific brain area.

2. The extension wire. This too is insulated, and is passed under the skin of the head, neck and shoulder, connecting the electrode to the third component of the system.

3. The internal pulse generator (IPG) is the third component. It is usually implanted under the skin in the upper chest.

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Mains Paper 3: Science and Tech

Prelims level: Deep brain stimulation

Mains level: Read the newsfeed

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