Depression is a complex and multifaceted condition that is not fully understood. Depression occurs at different times, at different levels of intensity and duration, and for different reasons. Sometimes the reasons are evident but very often they aren’t.
We do know that neurochemical changes take place in the brain during depression and the objective of antidepressant medication is to attempt restoration or alleviation of symptoms at the neurochemical level. Even so, it remains something of a mystery as to why some people respond to medication and others don’t. So, wouldn’t it be great if there were some way of monitoring human neurotransmitter levels in the brain to find out what is happening in real time, and more importantly, make corrections where necessary? Enter the latest research from the Mayo Clinic.
In a previous Sharepost about deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistive depression I mentioned that the technique was very much in an early stage of development. The results however were encouraging for a number of neurological conditions but that the mechanism and action was still something of a mystery. Recent findings by researchers at the Mayo Clinic have lifted the veil further and their findings signal some exciting potential for future treatments.
The focus for the research team was the tremors associated with certain neurological conditions such a Parkinsonism. Deep brain surgical techniques result in a marked increase in the release of adenosine, the effect of which is to reduce tremors. The research team used a new wireless sensor technique that once implanted in the brain sends real-time data about the quantity of adenosine being released into the brain during deep brain stimulation.
The brain sensor, combined with new scanning technology, can identify other neurotransmitter activity such as serotonin and dopamine, known to be associated with depression.
The team has now begun work on a “smart” feedback device which will monitor brain neurochemicals and adjust them to correct levels. Commenting to Medical News Today, Kevin Bennet, a Mayo Clinic engineer who helped develop the system said the hope is, “within milliseconds, we can measure, calculate and respond. From the patient’s perspective, this would be essentially instantaneous.”
Mayo Clinic. (2012, July 17). "Tool Created To Track Real-Time Chemical Changes In Brain." Medical News Today. Retrieved from