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Deep Brain Stimulation Effective in Treating OCD: Study

Deep brain stimulation could be the best way to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to research from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas.

The study suggests that it can halve the symptoms of the debilitating mental health condition, characterized by intrusive and persistent obsessive thoughts along with repeated behavior patterns. It is thought to affect up to 3 percent of people.

Two-thirds of those affected experienced substantial improvement within two years, according to the analysis of pooled data published online in the BMJ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Brain
A cross-sectioned model of the human brain. Two-thirds of those affected experienced substantial improvement within two years, according to the analysis of pooled data from the study. Unsplash

Dr. Sameer Sheth, associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said: "Successful application of deep brain stimulation requires a close therapeutic alliance between patient, neurosurgical and expert psychiatrist teams in centers that specialize in implantation and programming of the device."

Drugs and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very effective in treating OCD, but in around one in 10 cases, those approaches don't work.

Deep brain stimulation, which involves implanting electrodes in certain areas of the brain to regulate abnormal electrical impulses, has emerged in recent years as a potential treatment for those with severe symptoms.

While various studies have suggested that the technique can be effective in treating OCD patients, they have not always quantified the impact of potentially influential factors.

In a bid to account for this, the researchers systematically reviewed and pooled the results of 34 clinical trials published between 2005 and 2021, with the aim of critically assessing how well deep brain stimulation alleviates OCD and associated depressive symptoms in adults.

The 34 studies included 352 adults with an average age of 40, and severe to extreme OCD, the symptoms of which had not improved despite treatment.

In 23 of the studies, the participants were required to have had persistent symptoms for five or more years before consideration for surgery.

Of the remaining 11 studies, one had a requirement of more than a decade of symptoms and two or more years of failed treatment; another required at least one year of failed treatment, and five didn't specify any requirements. On average, symptoms persisted for 24 years.

Brain
Deep brain stimulation, which involves implanting electrodes in certain areas of the brain to regulate abnormal electrical impulses, has emerged in recent years as a potential treatment for those with severe symptoms. While various studies have suggested that the technique can be effective in treating OCD patients, they have not always quantified the impact of potentially influential factors. Unsplash

Coexisting mental health issues were reported in 23 studies and included major depression, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder. The average monitoring period after deep brain stimulation was two years.

The final pooled data analysis showed that deep brain stimulation reduced symptoms by 47 percent, and two-thirds of participants experienced substantial improvement within the monitoring period.

Dr. Sheth said: "While these results are encouraging, it is important to remember that deep brain stimulation is not without its limitations," adding that "first and foremost, it requires chronic implantation of hardware and carries the associated risk of complications."

Produced in association with SWNS Talker.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.