$8.5 million grant to develop a surgical treatment and understand the neurocircuitry of depression
Researchers from UCLA Health and Baylor College of Medicine have been awarded an $8.5 million grant to develop a surgical treatment for depression and work toward a better understanding of the neurocircuitry of depression. The grant is from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a part of the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative. Dr Nader Pouratian, associate professor and vice chair of UCLA Neurosurgery, is co-prinicipal investigator with Dr. Sameer Sheth, associate professor of neurosurgery at Baylor, and Dr. Wayne Goodman, professor and chair of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor.
The research program will investigate how deep brain stimulation can be used to manage patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Specifically, the study team aims to understand the abnormal brain circuits that give rise to depression and how advanced imaging and novel deep brain stimulation technology can be used to target those circuits. Deep brain stimulation is the implantation of a neurostimulator that sends electrical impulses through implanted electrodes to specific areas of the brain.
“While others have tried to use deep brain stimulation for depression, our progress has been limited by incremental efforts. The approach we will use represents a paradigm shift. We will not only try and treat the disease and its symptoms, but take this opportunity to better understand the circuits that are responsible for depression and develop advanced algorithms to target and treat those circuits,” Pouratian explained.
“There is a large unmet need for developing new approaches to treatment-resistant depression, which has become a public health issue. Deep brain stimulation has been studied as a treatment for the condition, but findings have been inconsistent,” Goodman said. The study will use a novel DBS system that is able to deliver more precise and guided stimulation, which has not been available until very recently in commercially available DBS systems.
“The proposed studies will investigate the feasibility and safety of using a next-generation DBS system, the Boston Scientific Vercise DBS system, to ‘steer’ stimulation simultaneously to two different brain regions implicated in treatment-resistant depression that may lead to new and better treatments for this and other severe neuropsychiatric disorders,” Sheth said.
In this clinical trials, two different brain regions to be targeted are the subgenual cingulate and ventral capsule/ventral striatum. These areas will be targeted because they represent hubs in critical networks thought to be involved in depression circuitry in the brain.
The BRAIN Initiative was created in 2013 with the goal of creating deeper understanding of devastating brain disorders and diseases while also developing new technology, treatment and cures through innovative research. Four federal agencies, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Food and Drug Administration and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, committed more $110 million to the initiative.