By Daily Mail Reporter
Grandmother who battled depression for 10 years recovers after groundbreaking neurological treatment
A grandmother who battled with depression for a decade has become the first person in the world to benefit from life-changing neurosurgical treatment.
Sheila Cook, from Torquay in Devon, who had attempted to take her own life on more than one occasion, said she is now able to enjoy life again.
Mrs Cook – whose illness had stopped responding to conventional treatments – was offered deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the first trial in the world that stimulates two different brain networks that are involved in depression.
Although DBS provided some temporary response, she relapsed and went on to be the first to have further advanced stereotactic neurosurgery, which was carried out in early 2010.
Since having the treatments Mrs Cook says her life has changed and she feels happy for the first time in years.
DBS consists of inserting thin wires in the brain that are connected to a ‘pacemaker’.
The effects are to inhibit and stimulate brain circuits that are specific to the condition being treated, with the current DBS trial targeting different circuits involved in depression.
These monitor the regulation of emotion, oversee the integration of emotion with bodily and intellectual function and regulate internal drives.
Leading the research is Dr Andrea Malizia, consultant senior lecturer in the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol and Mr Nikunj Patel, senior clinical lecturer in the Department of Neurosurgery at North Bristol NHS Trust.
Dr Malizia said: ‘Our patients and their families suffer enormously and it is often thought that nothing else can be done.
‘This lady responded temporarily to two of the complex treatments that we initiated in Bristol, but in the end remission has only been achieved by persisting and moving on to the next advanced treatment.
Mrs Cook’s problems began 10 years ago when she started to feel down.
A senior nurse, she started to feel stressed at work and feelings of being unable to cope began to get in the way of everyday life.
She said: ‘It just crept up on me, I felt awful and didn’t know why.’
After visiting her GP, she was referred to her local mental health trust and started a course of medication with support from a social worker.
Things got so bad that she was admitted to hospital for weeks at a time and clinicians started using electric shock therapy (ECT) in an attempt to improve things.
More visits to her GP followed and additional ECT was tried but had to be halted when doctors thought it was unsafe for her to have any more.
She said: ‘Things became really bad. I didn’t want to go out. I’d sit in all day and think bad thoughts.’
It was at this time she was referred by her doctors to the University of Bristol’s Psychopharmacology Unit.
Together with colleagues from the Neurosciences Department at Frenchay Hospital, the teams were beginning to look at different treatments for depression including deep brain stimulation.
Mrs Cook said: ‘They asked me if I wanted to take part in a clinical trial.
‘I initially had two stimulators fitted into my chest wall that sent currents of electricity to my brain.
‘The initial effects were positive but the improvement was not sustained. Severe symptoms came back including suicidal intent.’
In February 2010, Mrs Cook was asked if she would trial a new form of treatment – Anterior Cingulotomy using implantable guide tubes (GTAC), which was developed in Frenchay Hospital, Bristol.
Doctors say some patients do not respond to DBS or are not suitable for it, in which case the option of GTAC can be used.
Mrs Cook was the first patient to receive DBS and GTAC treatments.
Dr Malizia said: ‘Mrs Cook has been the first patient in the world to have these two treatments. I’m very pleased to see the second treatment has worked well for her and has been maintained.’