Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep brain stimulation is a more drastic treatment for certain mental disorders. For example, it has been shown to help people with depression, OCD, and Parkinson’s Disease. This process requires surgical procedure for sticking electrodes deep into the brain in very specific targeted areas. Typically depressed patients don’t undergo this procedure unless less invasive treatment methods such as talk therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, or antidepressants don’t work.
Sadness is known to increase when the anterior cingulate cortex is chronically overactive. Antidepressants typically target this area, trying to reduce its activity. Electrical stimulation via electrodes to this area of the brain can decrease its activity. I don’t understand how this is possible, but it’s pretty cool. Specifically, the Brodmann Area 25 is targeted to give instant temporary relief from depression. I would be curious to see the process on how the surgeons are able to accurately and safely implant electrodes into the brain. I am also astounded by how the deep electrode stimulation can now be done outside of the hospital via a battery operated device to give continued relief from depression.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects around 1% of the population around the world. It is characterized by positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions and hallucinations and negative symptoms include loss of motivation, decrease in thought productivity, and a decrease in feelings of pleasure.
Schizophrenia tends to emerge in early adulthood. This is the time when cognitive functions such as abstract reasoning and thinking seem to reach a mature stage to an extent. This is largely due to the large-scale trimming of excitatory synapses during this time. This fact has led to the suggestion that schizophrenia may be caused by disturbances in the trimming process. Therefore the cause of schizophrenia seems to lie within effects on the plasticity of the brain. Evidence has found that there is a decrease in quality and quantity of synaptic connections in schizophrenia.
Anxiety disorders and Covid-19
Anxiety disorders are the most common group of psychiatric disorders, approximately 12% of people worldwide are affected by them. A number of illnesses fit under the umbrella of anxiety disorder; all of them are characterized by an inappropriate expression of fear originating from the activation of the stress response.
Recently, the topic of anxiety has gotten a new meaning for many. Due to COVID-19 people are quarantined, social gatherings have been curtailed and daily life has fundamentally changed, perhaps even for good. This causes excessive worry, stress, and fear which may expose to or trigger anxiety disorders. Anxiety becomes a psychiatric disorder if the worry about e.g. the virus begins to affect your life daily or even hourly and you often find yourself consumed by fear of the future during the day. Currently, it can be even harder to get out of the cycle of worrisome and fearful thoughts since people are stuck alone at their homes and sometimes have no one to talk to.
Anxiety disorders can fortunately be treated. Psychotherapy is effective for many to learn that a certain stimuli is not dangerous and therefore, the body should no longer produce a stress response. If therapy does not help, there are also medication that inhibits the brain circuits involved in the stress response.