Deep brain stimulation (DBS) uses an electrical device much like a heart pacemaker that is implanted within the deep structures of the brain. DBS has been most commonly used to treat intractable pain, but it also can be used in movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease and dystonia. More recently, DBS has been used in the treatment of mood disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression that does not respond to other treatments. The implanted device sends out low-level electrical signals which are thought to interrupt nerve communications that underlie these disorders.
The device is implanted in deep areas of the brain that are associated with the transmission of very basic sensations; these areas are sometimes described as way stations and are some of the first brain structures that receive nerve signals from the spinal cord. The implant itself is an electrode that delivers continuous electrical impulses to the brain area. The electrode is attached to a wire that runs under the skin and is connected ultimately to a power supply (internal pulse generator; IPG), which is placed underneath the skin near the collarbone, chest, or abdomen. DBS is associated with risks that include brain hemorrhage and infection, and is not guaranteed to provide relief.