Date
23 September 2017
Electroconvulsive therapy has become a routine way to treat depression but the side effects include poorer memory after treatment. Photo: dailylobo.com
Electroconvulsive therapy has become a routine way to treat depression but the side effects include poorer memory after treatment. Photo: dailylobo.com

Where to find the brain’s ‘happiness center’

Living in a metropolis, Hong Kong people constantly suffer from stress and anxiety. Some people relieve it by doing entertaining activities or sports. Some indulge themselves in alcohol or even drugs for a rush of guilty pleasure, but the addiction would be detrimental.

What is happiness? Thanks to significant advancements in the fields of psychiatry and neuroscience, scientists have been able to locate “the happiness center” — a certain part of the brain that is linked to feeling happy. The participant would experience a thrill, or emotionally understand it as a state of contentment, when the brain cells of this particular area are stimulated.

Related neuroscientific research was conducted as early as the 1960s in which researchers from the California Institute of Technology found that monkeys and rats would keep hitting certain buttons which would create electrical stimulations via microelectrodes onto certain parts of their brains. They would even ignore those buttons that would reward them with food.

The scientists thus suggested that such electrical stimulations were mostly preferred as they could generate the most intense pleasure.

That said, let me add deep brain stimulation (DBS), a neurosurgical procedure in which the neurosurgeon uses a neurostimulator that sends electrical impulses through implanted microelectrodes to specific targets in the brain for the treatment of movement and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.

For patients with severe depression, deep brain stimulation of the subgenual cingulate gyrus — at the medial aspect of the cerebral cortex — would be applied to help relieve symptoms of the illness and enhance the efficacy of other conventional treatments for depression.

However, the exact neuroanatomical targets and clinical outcomes of deep brain stimulation treating severe depression are yet to be confirmed.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 25

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/FC/RA

specialist in neurosurgery

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