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New Study -- anyone know anything more?

Posted by Louisa on December 15, 1999, at 17:47:22

Found this in the AP 12/15/99

Filed at 5:06 p.m. EST

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The first small study where doctors implanted a pacemaker-like
device in the brain helped lift the moods of about 40 percent of severely depressed patients,
doctors reported Wednesday.

The 30-patient pilot study does not prove this unusual brain-stimulating treatment really helps
depression, researchers cautioned.

But sufferers of severe depression have clamored to try the experimental treatment since The
Associated Press disclosed the preliminary research in October. The pacemaker's
manufacturer, Cyberonics Inc., received several hundred phone calls from patients.

Researchers reported Wednesday on an Internet version of the medical journal Biological
Psychiatry that this ``vagus nerve stimulation'' seemed to help 40 percent of study

Joyce Daniels of Charleston, S.C., suffered severe depression for the past five years.
Medications and even electric shock therapy failed.

``Sometimes I'd cry for a week. ... I got to a place where I'd just sit on the end of the couch all
day long,'' she said.

She had the experimental brain stimulator implanted in March, and says she gradually began

``It's not like you put it in and wake up the next day and feel the whole world's changed,''
Daniels said. But around October, she says she felt largely recovered.

``The last five years I was walking through this fog, where there's nothing really clear to me in
my mind, and all of a sudden I got up one morning -- my mind has cleared up.''

The stimulator is essentially a brain pacemaker.

A generator the size of a pocket watch is implanted into the chest. Wires snake up the neck to
the vagus nerve, which runs from the neck into a brain region thought important for regulating
mood. Every few minutes, the stimulating sends tiny electric shocks to that nerve and thus on
to the brain.

The stimulator already is sold as a treatment for epilepsy.

For depression, it is ``extremely encouraging as a potential treatment,'' but more study is
needed to prove the effect, said the lead investigator, Dr. John Rush of the University of
Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Several study participants took antidepressants along with the brain stimulator, and it is
possible the implant somehow helps medicine work better, said co-researcher Dr. Lauren
Marangell of the Baylor College of Medicine.

A 200-patient study scheduled to begin next summer will offer a better test. Doctors are
debating implanting all the patients with a stimulator, but not immediately turning on all the
implants, hoping to prove any relief is not just a placebo effect.

During the 30-second zaps, the implant can cause temporary hoarseness in about 30 percent
to 40 percent of patients. Rush said few were bothered by the little voice breaks, but said one
patient who sang in her church choir did turn off the stimulator while singing.


For information on enrolling in next summer's study, call Cyberonics at 1-800-332-1375, ext.




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