Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

Photo of a woman and a brain
Deep brain stimulation. The impulse generator (A), the extension (B) and the electrode implanted into subcortical regions of the brain (C).

Recently researchers have perfected a method of stimulating the brain that is more invasive than TMS or VNS, but still is much less invasive than traditional brain surgery, where the brain is permanently lesioned. This new technique, called deep brain stimulation (DBS), involves inserting a very fine wire (about the width of a human hair) into the brain using stereotactic guidance. Then electrodes on this wire can be stimulated and the part of the brain where the electrode rests is functionally offline. DBS is FDA-approved for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease, essential tremor, and dystonia. The Brain Stimulation Lab, in conjunction with the Department of Neurology at the main hospital, uses DBS to treat depression. DBS is typically reserved for patients who have failed to respond to antidepressants, TMS, and ECT.

The DBS devices are made up of three components: the impulse generator, the extension, and the electrode. The impulse generator is a battery-operated device placed under the skin usually below the clavicle. A clinician can externally calibrate the generator to optimize the benefits and minimize the side effects. The extension transmits an electrical signal from the impulse generator to the electrodes. The probes are usually placed bilaterally in subcortical regions of the brain where they emit the electrical stimulation.

The Brain Stimulation Lab is currently recruiting patients for a DBS clinical trial. If you are interested in participating in the study, please call 843-876-5141.

For inquiries about scheduling a screening appointment for the DBS study at MUSC, please call 843-876-5141.