Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) are collaborating with researchers from the University Hospital Bonn, Germany to initiate a pilot study to assess the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the medial forebrain bundle of the brain. DBS is a new therapeutic approach for treatment-resistant depression.
With DBS treatment, patients undergo a surgical procedure to implant four wires with small electrodes under the skin, connecting the superolateral branch of the medial forebrain bundle to a battery-run neurostimulator placed under the skin, below the clavicle. The superolateral branch plays a role in depression, as neural pathways that affect emotion travel along the branch.
“DBS in the medial forebrain bundle has been studied in Germany with promising results. Our study will be the second time ever to target this part of the brain,” said principal investigator Jair Soares, M.D., professor and chair in the UTHealth Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “People suffering with depression who have not responded to medications and electroconvulsive therapy are functioning poorly and are suffering. This could potentially really help them.”
During the study conducted in Germany, 7 patients with extreme forms of major, treatment-resistant depression underwent DBS treatment in the medial forebrain bundle. 6 of them showed a positive response for at least 24 months post-surgery. The study results were published in the June 2013 issue of Biological Psychiatry.
The U.S. study will enroll 5 patients from 22 to 55 years old, and they will receive the treatment at Memorial-Hermann Texas Medical Center. Co-investigator on the study is Albert Fenoy, M.D., assistant professor in the UTHealth Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery and member of the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-TMC. The study has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration and is funded by the John S. Dunn Foundation through the Mischer Neuroscience Institute.