A study published on November 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that deep brain stimulation may be a viable treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Symptoms of the disorder include intrusive thoughts and rituals that can significantly interfere with daily functioning.
The small trial included only 16 patients, but the study found that 4 of them were nearly symptom-free following the treatment. The stimulation used a “brain pacemaker” and targeted the subthalamic nucleus, an area of the brain thought to be involved with motion, thinking, and emotion. Electrodes were surgically implanted in the brain and periodically emitted a charge to stimulate the area. A similar treatment has been used to block tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Overall, OCD symptoms were found to decrease by about 25% in patients who underwent the treatment.
Unfortunately, many of the research subjects experienced side effects, some of which were serious, including a cerebral hemorrhage and two infections.
In July, a similar story was posted at Family Anatomy indicating that severe depression may be treated using deep brain stimulation of the subcallosal cingulated gyrus. You can read more about the OCD study here.