Severe depression in adulthood is frequently experienced by those of us who have experienced serious childhood trauma. Sometimes, as in my own case, such clinical depression can be chronic and treatment resistant; my own would stubbornly resist about ten different types of drug treatment and in the end I had to resort, in utter desperation, to electro-convulsive shock therapy (which still didn’t work but did manage to leave me with a severe headache and other undesirable side-effects – CLICK HERE to read my article on this).
Because many people find that their depression does not lift despite having tried a variety of treatments, new ones are being constantly researched and developed. One such treatment is called VAGUS NERVE STIMULTION.
Essentially, this involves having an IMPLANT surgically placed beneath the skin which SENDS ELECTRICAL IMPULSES through the LEFT VAGUS NERVE and onto the brain.
Originally, the procedure was used to treat those suffering from epilepsy but a serendipitous finding was that it seemed to alleviate depressive symptoms in some of the patients.
In order to further investigate the matter, brain scans have been taken of patients who have undergone the procedure and it has been found that the electrical impulses sent to the brain from the implant via the vagus nerve have an effect upon particular neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that play a pivotal role in the moods that we experience. Specifically, the neurotransmitters involved are:
WHO CAN ACCESS THE TREATMENT?
In the US, to be considered for such treatment it is usual that :
a) the person’s depression has lasted at least for two years/is recurrent
b) the person’s depression is severe
c) the person has tried at least four other treatments, none of which have led to a significant improvement in the depressive illness
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS
– infection at site of surgical implant
– implant becoming loose after it has been surgically implanted
– neck pain
– hoarse voice
– problems with swallowing
– discomfort around site of implant
Long- term side effects are still being researched.
The patient is able to deactivate the device if side effects become too serious.
DOES IT WORK?
Research carried out upon its effectiveness so far have yielded rather mixed results. Further research is required.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).