Previously, the researchers found, also through deep brain stimulation, that WINCS detected and measured dopamine levels in the brain.
Major depressive disorder is the second most disabling condition in the developed world, with lifetime prevalence in the United States of 17 percent. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is thought to play a key role in controlling depression. Using deep brain stimulation, neurosurgeons can help patients with essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, movement disorders, and now, based on this study, psychiatric disorders.
“In a previous study, in order to better understand the mechanism of deep brain stimulation, we created WINCS, a new device that successfully measured such neurotransmitter levels as dopamine and norepinephrine on a second-by-second basis,” says Kendall Lee, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon. “In this experiment, we wanted to try to measure serotonin, which is very important in the mechanism of depression and its treatment. This study shows that WINCS can measure serotonin with a technology called fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, which is an electrochemical method of being able to measure serotonin in real time in the living brain.”
For this study, researchers collaborated with Mayo Clinic’s Division of Engineering and Paul Garris, Ph.D., at Illinois State University, who helped design and test the WINCS device. “We were able to take the laboratory method of neurotransmitter detection and create a miniaturized, wireless, computer-controlled device that allowed the detection to occur in real time,” says Kevin Bennet, chair, Mayo Clinic’s division of Engineering “We took the technique of fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, created real-time control and reporting, and converted it into something that can be used in animals and humans.”
While the study was conducted on animals, Dr. Lee is confident that the technology will be successful in humans. “Using this device, we can now do real-time serotonin measurement, so we’re hopeful that in the near future we’re able to use WINCS to measure serotonin in the human brain,” he says.
“What is significant is that if we can measure serotonin, perhaps we can modulate it. This opens the door for even more exciting areas of medicine. By having technology such as WINCS, rather than just diagnosing or measuring neurotransmitters, you can use this as a therapeutic tool to more precisely regulate brain neurotransmitter levels,” says Dr. Lee.
Other members of the Mayo Clinic research team included Christopher Criessenauer, M.D.; Su-Youne Chang, Ph.D.; Susannah Tye, Ph.D.; and Christopher Kimble.