Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Arlington, VA, United States (4E) – The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) claims a breakthrough that stands to radically improve the treatment of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Southern California (USC) working on the SUBNETS (Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies) program reported breakthroughs that might pave the way for better treatment of depression and other neuropsychiatric illness in patients.
They’re trying to develop responsive, closed-loop therapies that can help treat neuro-psychiatric illnesses. To develop such therapies, researchers need to record and analyse brain activity with near-real-time neural stimulation. Researchers reported their results in three separate studies.
In the first study, researchers from USC provided details of a new technology that can analyze and decode recorded neural signals to predict changes in mood in a person.
In the second study, the team reported identifying a specific sub-network of the brain that likely contributes to low mood, especially in individuals prone to anxiety. Researchers mapped those feelings in the amygdala and hippocampus regions of the brain. These regions are usually linked to negative emotions and memory, respectively.
In the latest study, UCSF researchers revealed how they used open-loop neural stimulation to successfully relieve the symptoms of moderate to severe depression in some patients.
Researchers said the unilateral neural stimulation delivered to the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) region in the brain modulated a sub-network found to contribute to depression. The stimulation produced acute, dose-dependent mood improvement in research participants suffering from moderate-to-severe baseline depression.
The study also revealed the OFC stimulation corrected mood only in subjects who suffered from depression. In these subjects, the stimulation did not trigger mania symptom such as grandiosity, hyperactivity or distractibility.
The research participants who did not suffer from depression remained unaffected by the OFC stimulation. These results sugges the lateral OFC stimulation is effective in normalizing pathological activity in circuits that mediate mood variation.
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