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Objectivism and Depression

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Hi, I just read about a new 'treatment' under development for depression an want an Objectivist perspective -

Brain Stimulator Treats Resistant Depression

Small study finds rapid, long-lasting effects and even remission

Betterhumans Staff

2/28/2005 3:24 PM

Credit: Joshua Blake

All smiles: When a specific part of their brain was stimulated, depressed people in a new study reported such things as "sudden calmness or lightness" and a "disappearance of the void"

Electrically stimulating the brain can dramatically alleviate depression resistant to other treatments.

The findings come from a small study of six people. But they are significant, say the study's authors, because up to 20% of people with depression don't respond to standard treatments and require a combination of such things as antidepressants and electroconvulsive treatment that still may fail.

Depression-fighting nerve stimulators are already approved in the US. The devices, made by Cyberonics of Houston, Texas, comprise pacemaker-like generators and nerve stimulation electrodes that deliver electrical signals to the vagus nerve in the left side of the neck.

In the new study, Helen Mayberg of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia and colleagues implanted an array of electrodes into part of the brain called the subgenual cingulate region.

Previous studies had indicated that this area is overactive in treatment-resistant depression.

Happiness switch

The new study, which lasted six months, found immediate improvements in mood when electrical stimulation of a few volts was applied to the implanted electrodes.

For four of the participants, the effect lasted for the full six months, with three people achieving remission or near remission.

Adverse effects were limited to infections around implant sites that were treatable with antibiotics.

"All patients spontaneously reported acute effects including 'sudden calmness or lightness,' 'disappearance of the void,' sense of heightened awareness, increased interest, 'connectedness,' and sudden brightening of the room, including a description of the sharpening of visual details and intensification of colors in response to electrical stimulation," the researchers report.

When the stimulation was turned off, the feelings disappeared, only to return when the stimulation was resumed.

Furthermore, besides improvements in depression symptoms, participants also had improved hand-eye coordination, verbal fluency and risk judgment.

The research is reported in the journal Neuron.


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It is my opinion that this science, and all pills prescribed for depression, are only a means of cutting off the physiological means by which our subconscious generates emotional responses.

Supressing emotions, either through willful evasion or through scientific methods, does not cure the problem -- and in fact exacerbates it. If you are depressed, or ifyou know people who are -- ask them why they are depressed. Unless they have been influenced by this technology or a physician who doesn't understand epistemology, they will respond with philosophic issues, not "my brain's chemicals are out of whack".

Drugs and electro-stimulation that cut off the emotions from the thoughts that cause them are tools of evasion and do not directly deal with whatever real problems the person has. They turn to these tools when they are already evading the causes and need some second-handed validation that "it isn't anything they have control over" (or, if they lack the means by which they can control it -- i.e. a practiced and honest power of introspection).

That's not to say I don't think that its possible for the physiological mechanism to malfunction -- but I've never met anyone in which it had, and it certainly isn't as common as the pill-pushers and doctors make it out to be. If it does happen, it is a very rare edge case and it would result in all-out psychosis. It could also occur in the insane (i.e. disconnected from reality).

Edited by TomL

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Supressing emotions, either through willful evasion or through scientific methods, does not cure the problem -- and in fact exacerbates it.

While I agree with the main thrust of your post, I'd like to add that medication and such may be a good short term way to deal with the symptoms while one tackles the cause.

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