This week the Wall Street Journal published a thought-provoking article about the need for new depression treatments: “To Treat Depression, a New Approach Tries Training the Brain,” June 2nd.
The piece describes a number of newly emerging treatments that actually use computer games to target specific mood centers in the brain and rehabilitate them through exercising the neural circuits within.
Explains writer Andrea Petersen: a growing number of researchers are coming into the view that the brain of the depressed individual should be treated “like a muscle that is atrophied.” Computer games – often combined with electric stimulation of other brain regions – can specifically target the brain circuits that go awry in depression and coax them back into shape.
Can these emergent treatments offer promise to the millions who struggle with resistant depression? It is too early to tell. As the article clearly states, studies testing the new treatments have had mixed results and the sample size was very small.
HDRF Board member Dr. Steven Roose of Columbia University echoed this point: “We always have to be cautious when someone claims to have a breakthrough new treatment. The studies were small and they are far from meeting the burden of proof required.”
However, Dr. Roose added: “The idea that there is structural damage in the brain during depressive illness is well-established scientifically. When we talk about depression, we are talking about a brain disorder that does indeed involve structural damage.”
“That is why it is so critical to treat depressive episodes or prevent them altogether,” he said. “To arrest the illness before further damage to brain tissue can occur.”
What’s clear: the need for more basic research into the brain. That is why the work of Hope for Depression Research Foundation – and your support – really matters.
We need a far more sophisticated understanding of the brain’s complex mood centers so we can assuredly intervene when something goes wrong. And that, of course, is the mandate of our acclaimed Depression Task Force and their bold research plan.
We look forward to much progress and leading the way to a new era of treatment.