Health Discoveries in Neurosurgery

Deep brain stimulation may control addictions

September 21, 2010
A case that used deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat a woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may offer some hope to those with addictions such as smoking and overeating.

In the September issue of Neurology, a research team at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam reports treating a patient with OCD with deep brain stimulation, which involves surgical implantation of a brain pacemaker that sends electric impulses to specific parts of the brain. Their patient, who they followed for several years, was also severely obese and a heavy smoker.

During electrical stimulation therapy, the woman's OCD symptoms gradually improved until her compulsions no longer interfered with her daily life. Soon after, she was able to quit smoking without cravings or withdrawal symptoms and began a diet that resulted in a weight loss of nearly 100 pounds.

"Together these findings suggest that deep brain stimulation of the nucleus accumbens might be able to suppress symptoms of various disorders in which the pathophysiology involves the brain reward circuitry, of which the nucleus accumbens is a critical relay station," the researchers write.

Within the North Shore-LIJ Health System, the North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, is the only medical center in Long Island and Queens to offer DBS surgery.
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