The journey to better mental health is unique for each individual; the symptoms, needs, and goals of one person with depression can be vastly different from another’s. It stands to reason then that treatment plans should also be tailored to fit individual needs. This has been explored in the field of neuromodulation: stimulating specific areas of the brain in order to treat neurological conditions, including depression.
Until recently, this approach was not successful in treating depression patients because it lacked personalization. However, when treatments began being catered to individual needs rather than relying on a generic setting for all patients, effectiveness increased dramatically.
This offers promising hope for those struggling with treatment-resistant depression who have not found relief through traditional methods such as antidepressant medications or therapy. They now have the assurance that their treatment will be specifically designed for them, raising the chances of a successful outcome.
What is Neuromodulation
Neuromodulation is essentially the use of technology to impact your nerves. Using techniques such as chemical, electrical, or electromagnetic stimulation of the brain, nerve activity can be modified. This treatment has been successfully employed to treat various conditions including epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, spinal injury, and more.
There are many different forms of neuromodulation. One of the most common and effective types is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which has been used to successfully treat depression, OCD, PTSD, and anxiety, amongst other conditions.
Neuromodulation has been identified as a potentially promising treatment for neurological dysfunction and pain control, although the exact mechanisms behind it are not fully understood. Studies on the use of neuromodulation for epilepsy were among the first to suggest that brain stimulation could be used to treat depression.
Research from the University of California San Francisco Epilepsy Center found changes in both depressed and non-depressed epileptic patients when mood-related areas of the brain were targeted. This was a strong indication that neuromodulation could be used to treat depression, and further research is continuing to explore this possibility.
Personalized Neuromodulation for Depression
Targeted neuromodulation is a type of treatment that focuses on one area of the brain, aiming to provide relief for specific conditions such as depression, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s. Although this approach does work for many patients, some question if it is the most effective option for everyone. After all, not everyone with depression experiences the same symptoms or concerns.
The University of California San Francisco Dolby Family Center for Mood Disorders took on the task of uncovering a more personalized form of neuromodulation to treat depression. Katherine Scangos MD, PhD was amongst those who contributed to the report and felt that individualized treatments had not been explored enough. She said “Prior attempts to develop neuromodulation for depression have always applied stimulation in the same site in all patients, and on a regular schedule that fails to specifically target the pathological brain state.”
In January of 2021, a case study was published in Nature Medicine with results from tracking the effects of stimulating various mood-related parts of the brain in one patient with severe treatment-resistant depression. This research suggested that personalized neuromodulation may be even more effective for treating this condition than traditional methods.
As a result of their efforts, the researchers found that stimulation in different areas of the brain alleviated distinct symptoms of depression. Some areas of the brain reduced anxiety when stimulated; others boosted energy levels; still others restored pleasure from everyday activities.
Scangos and her team were delighted by their findings, with the patient experiencing a six-week temporary remission from her depression symptoms. To further investigate these results, they are now leading the PRESIDIO trial, an ambitious five-year clinical study that will treat twelve individuals suffering from severe treatment-resistant depression using personalized targeted neuromodulation.
Andrew Krystal, MD, director of the Dolby Family Center for Mood Disorders stated: “Our trial is going to be groundbreaking in that every person in the study is potentially going to get a different, personalized treatment, and we will be delivering treatment only when personalized brain signatures of a depressed brain state indicate treatment is needed.” The short stimulation sessions have been shown to produce lasting effects for hours afterward and the team hopes to continue seeing similar success stories.
The region of the brain that is being stimulated and the patient’s mental state at the time of treatment both had an impact on the results. When in high states of anxiety and energy, stimulation could be calming and pleasant, but during times of low energy, it had the potential to drain their energy and worsen their mood. As such, personalized neuromodulation has the power to offer relief for those struggling with depression in a way that is tailored to the individual. With the PRESIDIO trial, they hope to learn if similar success can be seen in a larger group of people. This could indicate its true treatment potential.
Neuromodulation is a safe and effective way of treating various conditions, such as mental and mood disorders like depression. By stimulating certain parts of the brain which are related to symptoms – like improving mood, relieving pain, or providing more energy – neuromodulation has become a reliable option for managing these conditions.
Dr. Scangos and her team recently conducted a study that reveals how individualized neuromodulation can lead to improved outcomes for those with treatment-resistant depression. This is an exciting development since personalizing the approach this way hadn’t been done before. This demonstrates the power of personalized neuromodulation in improving well-being. These results provide further evidence of its efficacy in treating mental and mood disorders. It is an encouraging step in the right direction for those seeking lasting relief from their symptoms.
We are eagerly awaiting the results of Scangos’ extended and more expansive clinical trial, and hope for positive outcomes. In the meantime, target neuromodulation techniques such as TMS remain a viable option for thousands of patients to manage their mental health and neurological conditions.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please seek professional help from a qualified healthcare provider. With the right resources, there is hope for recovery and improved quality of life.