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Description: Ok here we go…. This sounds like science fiction BUT … what if we could implant electrodes into our brains into specific locations and then, when necessary, such as when were are clinically depressed, we could use the implanted electrodes to stimulate those areas of the brain and by doing so normalize the functioning of those or of related areas of the brain and stop the depression in is tracks? Think about what you would need to see in the way of research and ethical reflection before you would be comfortable with something like this being perused. Sure, we could simply say “go for it” but really? Think about what we need to know especially because there is a way of reading the account of the research study discussed in the link below that sounds like this study of individuals with epilepsy who had electrodes implanted in various areas of their brains in order to track seizures is describing a process that essentially turns off depression and turns on good moods. Ta da! So, get your “yah buts…” and your “what ifs….” in order and then give the article a read and see what you think.

Source: Effective new target for mood-boosting brain stimulation found, Science News ScienceDaily.

Date: November 29, 2018

Image Credit: Ben Speidel, Chang Lab, UCSF

Article Link:

Questions for Discussion: So, what do you think? A cure? A new recreational brain changer? A fascinating but not yet fully understood set of results? A massive ethical and health policy dilemma? Well I think it is all of these things at once. So, while I will not do it here, it is worth thinking about what sorts of things should be on the list of things that need to be done, further investigated, better understood, and reflected on from a medical ethics perspective as this line of research is rolling out.

  1. If this a miracle cure for depression?
  2. What else needs to be understood/known about the area of the brain the research stimulated especially in relation to depression?
  3. Science fiction writers have written about the possibility implications of recreational brain stimulation (direct via electrode implantation rather than drug driven) and they usually do not show it as going very well. What do you see as some of the legal and ethical issues in this area?

References (Read Further):

Delaloye, S., & Holtzheimer, P. E. (2014). Deep brain stimulation in the treatment of depression. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 16(1), 83.

McInerney, S. J., McNeely, H. E., Geraci, J., Giacobbe, P., Rizvi, S. J., Ceniti, A. K., … & Kennedy, S. H. (2017). Neurocognitive predictors of response in treatment resistant depression to subcallosal cingulate gyrus deep brain stimulation. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11, 74.

Cheng, W., Rolls, E. T., Qiu, J., Xie, X., Wei, D., Huang, C. C., … & Lin, C. P. (2018). Increased functional connectivity of the posterior cingulate cortex with the lateral orbitofrontal cortex in depression. Translational psychiatry, 8.

Huber, R. S., Subramaniam, P., Kondo, D. G., Shi, X., Renshaw, P. F., & Yurgelun‐Todd, D. A. (2018). Reduced Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC) Volume and Suicide Behavior in Youth with Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar disorders.

Smeets, A. Y., Duits, A. A., Horstkötter, D., Verdellen, C., De Wert, G., Temel, Y., … & Leentjens, A. F. G. (2018). Ethics of Deep Brain Stimulation in Adolescent Patients with Refractory Tourette Syndrome: a Systematic Review and Two Case Discussions. Neuroethics, 11(2), 143-155.

Hamilton, R., Messing, S., & Chatterjee, A. (2011). Rethinking the thinking cap: ethics of neural enhancement using noninvasive brain stimulation. Neurology, 76(2), 187-193.