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BMC Res Notes. 2010 Mar 4;3:60. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-3-60.

Deep brain stimulation for obsessive-compulsive disorder and treatment-resistant depression: systematic review.

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  • 1Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



In spite of advances in psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, there are still a significant number of patients with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder that are not aided by either intervention. Although still in the experimental stage, deep brain stimulation (DBS) offers many advantages over other physically-invasive procedures as a treatment for these psychiatric disorders. The purpose of this study is to systematically review reports on clinical trials of DBS for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Locations for stimulation, success rates and effects of the stimulation on brain metabolism are noted when available. The first observation of the effects of DBS on OCD and TRD came in the course of using DBS to treat movement disorders. Reports of changes in OCD and depression during such studies are reviewed with particular attention to electrode locations and associated adverse events; although these reports were adventitious observations rather than planned. Subsequent studies have been guided by more precise theories of structures involved in DBS and OICD. This study suggests stimulation sites and prognostic indicators for DBS. We also briefly review tractography, a relatively new procedure that holds great promise for the further development of DBS.


Articles were retrieved from MEDLINE via PubMed. Relevant references in retrieved articles were followed up. We included all articles reporting on studies of patients selected for having OCD or TRD. Adequacy of the selected studies was evaluated by the Jadad scale. Evaluation criteria included: number of patients, use of recognized psychiatric rating scales, and use of brain blood flow measurements. Success rates classified as "improved" or "recovered" were recorded. Studies of DBS for movement disorders were included if they reported coincidental relief of depression or reduction in OCD. Most of the studies involved small numbers of subjects so individual studies were reviewed.


While the number of cases was small, these were extremely treatment-resistant patients. While not everyone responded, about half the patients did show dramatic improvement. Associated adverse events were generally trivial in younger psychiatric patients but often severe in older movement disorder patients. The procedures differed from study to study, and the numbers of patients was usually too small to do meaningful statistics or make valid inferences as to who will respond to treatment.


DBS is considered a promising technique for OCD and TRD. Outstanding questions about patient selection and electrode placement can probably be resolved by (a) larger studies, (b) genetic studies and (c) imaging studies (MRI, fMRI, PET, and tractography).

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