Researchers have found an effective target in the brain for electrical stimulation to improve mood in people suffering from depression. As reported in the journal Current Biology on November 29, stimulation of a brain region called the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) reliably produced acute improvement in mood in patients who suffered from depression at the start of the study.
Those effects were not seen in patients without mood symptoms, suggesting that the brain stimulation works to normalize activity in mood-related neural circuitry, the researchers say.
“Stimulation induced a pattern of activity in brain regions connected to OFC that was similar to patterns seen when patients naturally experienced positive mood states,” says Vikram Rao, of the University of California, San Francisco. “Our findings suggest that OFC is a promising new stimulation target for treatment of mood disorders.”
The team led by Rao and Kristin Sellers in the lab of Edward Chang studied 25 patients with epilepsy who had electrodes placed in the brain for medical reasons to pinpoint the origin of their seizures. Many of those patients also suffered from depression, which is often seen in people with epilepsy. With the patients’ consent, Chang’s team took advantage of those electrodes to deliver small electrical pulses to areas of the brain thought to be involved in regulating mood.