Deep Brain Stimulation for Treating Obesity

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • Deep Brain Stimulation for Treating Obesity

    Deep brain stimulation was a chance discovery that was made during a clinical study for drug abuse in 1987. Since that time, deep brain stimulation has been found to help with a number of illnesses including Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, tremors, multiple sclerosis, depression, epilepsy, and Tourette’s syndrome. 

    Right about now, a pretty good question might be “What exactly is deep brain stimulation?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

    What is Deep Brain Stimulation?

    Deep brain stimulation is the implantation of electrodes in certain areas of your brain that will produce electrical  impulses which regulate abnormal impulses. These electrical impulses affect certain cells and chemicals that are in the brain. 

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    The degree of stimulation is controlled by a device that is similar to a pacemaker that is placed beneath the skin in the upper chest. A wire beneath the skin connects the device to electrodes in the brain.

    Especially encouraging has been the use of deep brain stimulation in treating Parkinson’s disease.

    The results of a study involving 251 participants who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The groups were followed for two years at 21 centers if France and Germany. The first group received neurostimulation and medical therapy and the second group received only medical therapy. 

    Those who received deep brain stimulation showed much greater overall improvement than those who did not in the areas of speech, handwriting, dressing, walking, emotional well-being, cognition, and communication.

    Deep Brain Stimulation for the Treatment of Obesity

    The hypothalamus was the original target for testing deep brain stimulus as method for addressing obesity. Success was rare. 

    Recent research has been focused on the “reward circuitry” of the brain. Scientists believe that an imbalance of this circuitry is associated with obesity. Researchers believe that a surgically placed electrode can be used to send a mild electric current to interrupt abnormal brain activity. Just as Parkinson patients stimulate areas of the brain to relieve tremors, the belief is that obese patients can stimulate the area of the brain that controls abnormal feeding behaviors.

    People who wish the surgery are subject to careful screening whereas any surgery has risk potential.

    Deep Brain Stimulation Compared to Bariatric Surgery

    Bariatric surgery is considered the premier treatment for morbid obesity and, as of this writing, that has not changed. While deep brain stimulation is a less invasive procedure than available surgical treatments, the fact remains that bariatric surgery is more successful.

    When deep brain stimulation was compared to the two most common bariatric surgeries to determine what the equivalent success rate, it was found that deep brain stimulation would have to have a success rate of 83% to be equivalent to bariatric surgery. The success rate of bariatric surgery is superior despite its complication rate of 33.4%. The complication rate of deep brain stimulation was only 19.4%.

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Published On: March 14, 2013