Brain Topography

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 12–19 | Cite as

Neuromodulation for Treatment Resistant Depression: State of the Art and Recommendations for Clinical and Scientific Conduct

  • Thomas E. Schlaepfer
  • Bettina H. Bewernick


Research of Deep Brain Stimulation as a putative treatment for resistant psychiatric disorders might very well lead to the most significant development in clinical psychiatry of the last 40 years—possibly offering a rise of hope for patients to whom medicine had hitherto little to offer. Furthermore, translational research on neuromodulation will allow us to glean something about the underlying cause of patient’s illnesses before figuring out a treatment that addresses the source of the problem. Major depression offers perhaps the best example of the rapid progress being made in understanding the biology of mental illness. Studies on the underlying neurobiology of major depression have typically focused on the description of biological differences between patients and healthy subjects such as alterations of monoaminergic or endocrine systems. Psychotropic drugs work by altering neurochemistry to a large extent in widespread regions of the brain, many of which may be unrelated to depression. We believe that more focused, targeted treatment approaches that modulate specific networks in the brain will prove a more effective approach to help treatment-resistant patients. In other words, whereas existing depression treatments approach this disease as a general brain dysfunction, a more complete and appropriate treatment will arise from thinking of depression as a dysfunction of specific brain networks that mediate mood and reward signals (Berton and Nestler, Nat Rev Neurosci 7 (2):137–151, 2006; Krishnan and Nestler, Nature 455(7215):894–902, 2008). A better understanding of defined dysfunctions in these networks will invariably lead to a better understanding of patients afflicted with depression and perhaps contribute to a de-stigmatization of psychiatric patients and the medical specialty treating them.


Major depression Deep brain stimulation Neuromodulation Nucleus accumbens Medial forebrain bundle Subgenual cingulate gyrus Anterior limb of internal capsule 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity HospitalBonnGermany
  2. 2.Departments of Psychiatry and Mental HealthThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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