Background: Treatment-resistant major depressive disorder is a prevalent and debilitating condition. Deep brain stimulation to different targets has been proposed as a putative treatment.
Methods: In this pilot study, we assessed safety and efficacy of deep brain stimulation to the supero-lateral branch of the medial forebrain bundle in seven patients with highly refractory depression. Primary outcome criterion was severity of treatment-resistant major depressive disorder as assessed with the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale. General psychopathologic parameters, social functioning, and tolerance were assessed with standardized scales, the Global Assessment of Functioning scale, quality of life (Short-Form Health Survey Questionnaire), and neuropsychological tests.
Results: All patients showed strikingly similar intraoperative effects of increased appetitive motivation. Six patients attained the response criterion; response was rapid--mean Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale of the whole sample was reduced by>50% at day 7 after onset of stimulation. At last observation (12-33 weeks), six patients were responders; among them, four were classified as remitters. Social functioning (Global Assessment of Functioning) improved in the sample as a whole from serious to mild impairment. Mean stimulation current was 2.86 mA; all side effects (strabismus at higher stimulation current, one small intracranial bleeding during surgery, infection at the implanted pulse generator site) could be resolved at short term.
Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest that bilateral stimulation of the supero-lateral branch of the medial forebrain bundle may significantly reduce symptoms in treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. Onset of antidepressant efficacy was rapid (days), and a higher proportion of the population responded at lower stimulation intensities than observed in previous studies.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01095263.
Copyright © 2013 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.