WASHINGTON (Dispatches)- 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 , 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 of the University of California, San Francisco say.
The researchers focused their attention and the electrical stimulation on the OFC. The OFC is a key hub for mood-related circuitry. But it's also widely regarded as one of the least well-understood brain regions.
They used the implanted electrodes to stimulate OFC and other brain regions while collecting verbal mood reports and questionnaire scores. Those studies found that unilateral stimulation of the lateral OFC produced acute, dose-dependent mood-state improvement in subjects with moderate-to-severe baseline depression. The changes in brain activity the researchers observed after stimulation closely resembled those seen when people are in a good mood.
The findings show that mood can be immediately improved by electrical stimulation of a relatively small area of brain, the researchers say. They also add to evidence that mood disorders are the result of dysfunction in brain circuits.