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SNHS Article: Brain Implant Helps Woman Overcome Her Depression

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mental condition that causes feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Depression affects people’s lives and how they view the world. It can not simply be cured, but there are many methods to help people suffering from depression. It is most common for depression to only occur once during a person’s life, but people can experience episodes of depression and symptoms daily. Some symptoms include feeling emptiness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and anxiety among other symptoms. It is important to seek out help if these symptoms persist in order to receive the appropriate care. There are many causes of depression including changes in hormones in the body, the chemistry of the brain, biological changes in the brain, and can even be hereditary. Although depression may seem …, there are many ways to prevent depression including managing stress levels, staying in contact with family and friends, and reaching out for help if needed. 

Recently, one patient received a customized brain implant to cure her depression. Fortunately, this brain implant worked and the patient’s depression symptoms began to fade for at least two months. This brain implant was created by scientists who analyzed the patient’s brain to see any change in brain activity. Scientists say that brain implants may not work for other patients, but for some, they will. In order to analyze the brain of the patient, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco inserted thin wire electrodes in the patient’s brain, allowing for the patient’s brain activity to be monitored. For this particular patient, researchers observed a fast gamma wave in the part of the patient’s brain dealing with emotions. With this information known, researchers were able to figure out how they could interrupt the depression symptoms. A region in the brain called the ventral capsule is involved in emotions and is very important in the brain of the patient. By applying jolts of electrical current in the ventral capsule, the patient’s emotions improved. 

After this fascinating discovery, surgeons inserted a permanent implant in the patient’s brain. The implant was programmed to monitor when the gamma waves were high and to counter them with jolts in the ventral capsule. The patient herself said that since her implant, “Everything has gotten easier and easier and easier.” Researchers are not sure how long the effects of the implant will last, but so far the patient has had the implant for one year. Because of its complex nature, these implants may not be used for other treatments. Still, the success of this implant gives hope for new treatments to be discovered.

Rania Hart ’22

Sources:

“Depression (Major Depressive Disorder).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 3 Feb. 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007. 

Sanders, Laura. “A Custom Brain Implant Lifted a Woman’s Severe Depression.” Science News, 4 Oct. 2021, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/brain-implant-severe-depression-activity-stimulation. 

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