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With your feet in the air, and your head on the ground . . .


{Tuesday, April 04, 2006}

There's a pretty cool article on an experimental surgical treatment for severe, medication-resistant depression in this week's New York Times Magazine:

A Depression Switch?

An excerpt:

Now Lozano threaded a guide tube — "It's a straight shot," he said later, "really quite easy" — down between crevices and seams to one side of Area 25, which is in two small lobes at the midline of the brain. He slid the first electrode and its lead down the tube, then repeated this for the other side. All this took nearly two hours. After he double-checked his locations, he wired the leads to a pacemaker and gave Mayberg a nod. They could turn it on anytime now.

Mayberg had squeezed into a spot at Deanna's side some time before. She had told Deanna that if anything felt different, she should say so. Mayberg wasn't going to tell her when the device was activated. "Don't try to decide what's important," Mayberg told her. "If your nose itches, I want to know." Now and then the two would chat. But so far Deanna hadn't said much.

So we turn it on," Mayberg told me later, "and all of a sudden she says to me, 'It's very strange,' she says, 'I know you've been with me in the operating room this whole time. I know you care about me. But it's not that. I don't know what you just did. But I'm looking at you, and it's like I just feel suddenly more connected to you.' "

Mayberg, stunned, signaled with her hand to the others, out of Deanna's view, to turn the stimulator off.

"And they turn it off," Mayberg said, "and she goes: 'God, it's just so odd. You just went away again. I guess it wasn't really anything.'

"It was subtle like a brick," Mayberg told me. "There's no reason for her to say that. Zero. And all through those tapes I have of her, every time she's in the clinic beforehand, she always talks about this disconnect, this closeness and sense of affiliation she misses, that was so agonizingly painful for her to lose. And there it was. It was back in an instant."

Deanna later described it in similar terms. "It was literally like a switch being turned on that had been held down for years," she said. "All of a sudden they hit the spot, and I feel so calm and so peaceful. It was overwhelming to be able to process emotion on somebody's face. I'd been numb to that for so long."

posted by Miles 1:20 AM

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