Left versus right subcallosal cingulate deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression

Susan K. Conroy, Shannon Malloy, Mary E. Kelley, Megan M. Filkowski, Ryan M. Trimble, Megan E. Pirtle, Ashley Maher, Sarah Dreyer-Oren, Wilder Doucette, Robert M. Roth, Joshua P. Aronson, David W. Roberts, Ki Sueng Choi, Helen S. Mayberg, Paul E. Holtzheimer

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3 Scopus citations


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subcallosal cingulate has emerged as a promising therapy for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). To date, all studies have employed bilateral stimulation; however, the physiology of affect and pathophysiology of depression are known to be asymmetric across hemispheres. Unilateral stimulation may provide efficacy while decreasing risk. Five patients were exposed to unilateral open-label DBS to the subcallosal cingulate for 12 weeks each to the left and then right hemispheres in a double-blind, crossover fashion. After 12 weeks of stimulation to each hemisphere, bilateral stimulation was initiated, and patients were followed for 12 additional weeks. Additionally, nine months of long-term follow up data were collected. Left, but not right, unilateral stimulation was associated with significant decrease in depression scores; with bilateral stimulation, all patients improved and one patient remitted. No serious adverse events were associated with surgery or acute or chronic stimulation. This small study suggests that unilateral DBS to the subcallosal cingulate may be an effective treatment for TRD. All patients improved with bilateral stimulation, though antidepressant effects following 12 weeks were modest. These findings contrast somewhat with prior open-label trials, though duration of bilateral stimulation was shorter in this trial. The current study continues to confirm safety of implantation and use of DBS to the subcallosal cingulate for patients with TRD and highlights the importance of personalization of therapy, for example by hemisphere, in future trials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100069
JournalPersonalized Medicine in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Subcallosal cingulate
  • Treatment-resistant depression


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