Treating Depression vis Electronic Impants

Right out of an early William Gibson cyberpunk novel, doctors are testing electronic implants and electromagnetic pulses to address failures of psychoactive drugs to treat depression [via ieee spectrum]:

Depression is distressingly common, affecting more than 120 million people around the world and sucking tens of billions of dollars out of the global economy through the cost of care and lost productivity. It’s also deadly. Every year 850 000 people worldwide take their own lives, and 9 out of 10 of them are suffering from depression, another mental illness, or substance abuse. Statistics show that of those who had had treatment for depression just through visits to a doctor’s office, 2 percent ultimately committed suicide, as did 4 percent of those who had to be hospitalized for depression.

Twenty-five percent of people with depression have no access to any form of mental health care; of those who do have access to care, only a quarter seek treatment. Of those who consult doctors, some 80 percent find relief in the form of drugs or some kind of talk therapy, such as cognitive therapy… But some of these methods [for electrically manipulating specific portions of the brain with implanted electrodes, electric current, or magnetic fields] are already showing great promise for treating such other mental maladies as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bulimia…

[V]agus nerve stimulation [is a] pacemakerlike device about the size of a pocket watch, implanted under the skin of the chest… that [uses] electric pulsing [that] completely quashes the symptoms of depression [in about 16 percent of patients]. It was approved as a depression therapy, for use in conjunction with drugs, by government regulators in the European Union and Canada in 2001. Last June, it became the first psychiatric device to be reviewed and approved in the United States, which has more stringent requirements for medical devices. Nevertheless, a number of psychiatrists remain unconvinced that the therapy works in enough people to outweigh the risk and cost of surgery.

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One thought on “Treating Depression vis Electronic Impants

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