Deep brain stimulation for treating schizophrenia
Researchers have found a novel way to treat patients who have treatment-resistant schizophrenia by using the same type of deep brain stimulation hardware used to treat Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders.

The case study details how this procedure targets the substantia nigra pars reticulata—a part of the brain that's a key hub of circuits involved in the control of learning, executive functions and behaviors, and emotions. When this part of the brain is modulated using deep brain stimulation, it showed the potential to alleviate treatment-resistant schizophrenia symptoms.

For the study, researchers treated a 35-year-old Caucasian woman who has treatment-resistant paranoid schizophrenia, accompanied by obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her symptoms consisted of persistent auditory and visual hallucinations, thought broadcasting—a person believes his or her thoughts are audible—and persecutory delusions. Antipsychotic medications, including clozapine, failed to reduce her symptoms.

- After one year of deep brain stimulation, the patient remains stably improved, with no significant complications or adverse reactions related to the implanted device.

- The patient reported immediate and complete resolution of chronic hallucinations right from the start of stimulation.

- As a result, she's in the process of decreasing the dose of her antipsychotic medications and has an improved quality of life.

These results provide hope for patients with severe, treatment-resistant schizophrenia, and they suggest that deep brain stimulation may be more effective for schizophrenia than response rates noted in multiple antipsychotic medication clinical trials.

Biological Psychiatry