Neurostimulatory therapeutics in management of treatment-resistant depression with focus on deep brain stimulation

Mt Sinai J Med. 2008 May-Jun;75(3):263-75. doi: 10.1002/msj.20044.


Treatment-resistant depression continues to pose a major medical challenge, as up to one-third of patients with major depressive disorder fail to have an adequate response to standard pharmacotherapies. An improved understanding of the complex circuitry underlying depressive disorders has fostered an explosion in the development of new, nonpharmacological approaches. Each of these treatments seeks to restore normal brain activity via electrical or magnetic stimulation. In this article, the authors discuss the ongoing evolution of neurostimulatory treatments for treatment-resistant depression, reviewing the methods, efficacy, and current research on electroconvulsive therapy, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, magnetic seizure therapy, focal electrically administered stimulated seizure therapy, transcranial direct current stimulation, chronic epidural cortical stimulation, and vagus nerve stimulation. Special attention is given to deep brain stimulation, the most focally targeted approach. The history, purported mechanisms of action, and current research are outlined in detail. Although deep brain stimulation is the most invasive of the neurostimulatory treatments developed to date, it may hold significant promise in alleviating symptoms and improving the quality of life for patients with the most severe and disabling mood disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Deep Brain Stimulation
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Treatment Failure*
  • Vagus Nerve