08 August, 2007

Epilepsy, depression, and suicide

When people with a history of psychiatric illness were excluded from the analysis and researchers adjusted for other risk factors associated with suicide, epilepsy patients were still twice as likely to commit suicide as people without epilepsy.

Women with epilepsy and a history of psychiatric disease were 23 times more likely to commit suicide than women without either condition, compared with a tenfold increase in risk among men with epilepsy and psychiatric illness.

(via) (and thanks, Wired, for the image)

And then of course, there's this bit:

Depression is commonly experienced among persons with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Although evidence exists implicating dysfunction of distributed neural structure and circuitry among depressed persons without epilepsy, little is known regarding the neural correlates of depression in TLE


These findings indicate that both right and left amygdala volumes are associated with depression severity among persons with TLE. Future studies examining the potential role of extended neural regions may clarify the observed structural relationship between depressive symptoms and the amygdala.

And everyone's known for some time that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can aid both epilepsy and (unipolar) depression. So why aren't people following up on that correlation and researching drugs (or indeed surgical procedures) which can alleviate both through a common mechanism?

I can't help but read Richard K. Morgan or Iain Banks and wonder when we're going to finally get wetware. We know what to stimulate, we know roughly how much to stimulate, and we have a laundry list of stuff we'd like to address (depression, epilepsy, didactic memory, alzheimer's, parkinson's, the "babelfish" implant, and so on).

In the meantime, tens of thousands of people will continue to die needlessly from any of the above treatable diseases because nobody's got the balls to just start stuffing wires into craniums. Let me start the list here.

  1. Alex Avriette

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