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New Depression Treatment Stimulates the Brain

New Britain [January 27 2005] - An Avon woman is the first in Connecticut to undergo a new depression treatment that involves implanting a small device under the skin to stimulate the brain.

The surgery was performed in December by Ahmed Khan, M.D. at New Britain General Hospital, and uses a device known as a vagal nerve stimulator. The device received FDA approval last year for treatment of unremitting, chronic depression that has failed to respond to other interventions; including drug therapy and counseling.

The device, which resembles a pacemaker, is surgically implanted into the neck, where it stimulates the vagus nerve. This causes the brain to secrete neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that affect the brain.

“This treatment appears to alter the brain chemistry, which helps the person overcome their depression,” Khan said. Results are not immediate, and can take six to eight weeks. The woman appears to be progressing well, he said.

The patient, a woman in her 50s, did not want to identified, but Khan said she was referred to him by her psychiatrist after her other treatments for severe and chronic depression failed to provide relief.

While this treatment is new for depression, vagal nerve stimulators have been widely used for some time to treat epilepsy. The device tested for treating depression after it was noted that some people with epilepsy who had previously suffered from depression no longer had it after the device was implanted.

Contact: Helayne Lightstone, 860-224-5470 or 860-224-5695

HCC Corporate Communications
(860) 224-5695 • Fax (860) 224-5779