Experts have been successfully able to treat a patient suffering from severe depression by stimulating the habenula, a tiny nerve structure in the brain.
A team of neurosurgeons at Heidelberg University Hospital and psychiatrists at the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH), Mannheim, performed the world's first operation on the habenula of a 64-year-old woman, who had suffered from the common psychiatric illness since age 18.
The woman, who could not be helped by medication or electroconvulsive therapy, was now said to be symptom free for the first time in years following the procedure.
Dr. Karl Kiening, head of stereotactic neurosurgery, who performed the procedure, said: "The neurosurgery department at Heidelberg University Hospital is optimally equipped for demanding procedures such as this with among other things, the new intraoperative highfield MRI."
Dr. Alexander Sartorius, psychiatrist at the CIMH, added: "We decided to stimulate the habenula because it is involved is the control of three major neurotransmitter systems, which are known to be disturbed in depression'".
Dr. Sartorius continued: "We aim to show that habenula stimulation has a better success rate than other target areas attempted for depression and that it is also safe to use".
The study was published in the leading scientific journal Biological Psychiatry.