Researchers Identify Crucial Biomarker That Tracks Recovery from Treatment-Resistant Depression

Copper-colored illustration of a hair-like mass shaped like a brain. The strands are the white matter structure of a patient brain.  It's encircled by ones & zeros that connect to a bright spot in the frontal lobe with brightly lit pathways extending from that spot — the target pathways for a deep-brain stimulation therapy to treat severe depression. (Illustration: Mike Halerz, TeraPixel)

An illustration created from scans of the white matter brain structure of a patient in the study by Georgia Tech, Mount Sinai, and Emory University researchers. The highlighted paths are the regions targeted in deep-brain stimulation therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Recordings of brain activity during treatment paired with new explainable AI tools can provide objective data about recovery to physicians. (Illustration: Mike Halerz, TeraPixel)

A team of clinicians, engineers, and neuroscientists has made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of treatment-resistant depression. By analyzing the brain activity of patients undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS), the researchers identified a unique pattern in brain activity that reflects the recovery process in patients with treatment-resistant depression. This pattern, known as a biomarker, serves as a measurable indicator of disease recovery and represents a significant advance in treatment for the most severe and untreatable forms of depression.

The team’s findings, published in the journal Nature Sept. 20, offer the first window into the intricate workings and mechanistic effects of DBS on the brain during treatment for severe depression.

DBS involves implanting thin electrodes in a specific brain area to deliver small electrical pulses, similar to a pacemaker. Although DBS has been approved and used for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease for many years, it remains experimental for depression.

This study is a crucial step toward using objective data collected directly from the brain via the DBS device to inform clinicians about the patient’s response to treatment. This information can help guide adjustments to DBS therapy, tailoring it to each patient’s unique response and optimizing their treatment outcomes.

Read the full story on the College of Engineering website.

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