for people ages 22-70 (full criteria)
at San Francisco, California
study started
completion around
Principal Investigator
by Andrew Krystal, MD, MS
Headshot of Andrew Krystal
Andrew Krystal



Neurons are specialized types of cells that are responsible for carrying out the functions of the brain. Neurons communicate with electrical signals. In diseases such as major depression this electrical communication can go awry. One way to change brain function is using electrical stimulation to help alter the communication between groups of neurons in the brain.

The purpose of this study is to test a personalized approach to brain stimulation as an intervention for depression. The study researchers will use a surgically implanted device to measure each individual's brain activity related to his/her depression. The researchers will then use small electrical impulses to alter that brain activity and measure whether these changes help reduce depression symptoms. This study is intended for patients with major depression whose symptoms have not been adequately treated with currently available therapies.

The device used in this study is called the NeuroPace Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) System. It is currently FDA approved to treat patients with epilepsy. The study will test whether personalized responsive neurostimulation can safely and effectively treat depression.

Official Title

Closed-Loop Deep Brain Stimulation for Treatment-Resistant Depression


This is a single-center 3-stage feasibility study of personalized closed-loop stimulation for treatment resistant Major Depressive Disorder. Depending on participant's results at each stage, he/she might not be eligible to proceed to all 3 stages.

Stage 1 of the study will involve surgically implanting small, thin electrodes in brain regions that regulate depression in order to identify personalized treatment sites. The researchers will test stimulation in the different brain regions and their effect on depression symptoms. The electrodes will be surgically removed at the end of Stage 1.

Stage 2 will involve a second brain surgery to implant the NeuroPace RNS® System. Researchers will use information from Stage 1 to decide where to implant the electrodes of the RNS System. Over the next ~4-12 months, participants will have regular study visits in the clinic where the researchers will determine a personalized brain activity pattern that correlates with depression symptoms and can be paired with stimulation to improve depression symptoms.

Stage 3 will be 12 months long and will involve turning ON and OFF the intervention to test its effectiveness. Over the course of a year, the participant will have two 6-week periods with no stimulation and will receive the intervention for the remainder of the time.

At the end of this stage the participant can choose to continue with long-term follow-up or have the RNS System surgically removed.


Major Depressive Disorder, Depression, Treatment-resistance, Deep brain stimulation, Closed-loop, Biomarker, Responsive neurostimulation, Brain surgery, Depressive Disorder, Stimulation-ON, Stimulation-OFF


You can join if…

Open to people ages 22-70

  • Age 22-70
  • Meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) without psychosis based on a Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-V (SCID) with current episode ≥ 2 years that is treatment- resistant (4 adequate trials (including ECT), 3 classes of medications, one augmentation strategy, psychotherapy) as measured by the antidepressant treatment history form (ATHF).
  • Failed electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) due to inability to achieve sustained response (2 failed attempts to discontinue ECT treatment) or discontinued due to intolerable side effects.
  • Has MADRS score of > 26 at both baseline and screening visit
  • The presence of variability on repeated administrations of MDD rating scales (minimum of 2-point variation on the HAMD-6 administered 3 times a day for 3 days), which is required for the identification of a neural biomarker.
  • If patient is on a regimen of psychotropic medication, no changes in this regimen should be made during the 4 weeks prior to entry into and the duration of the study.
  • Willing and able to undergo invasive brain recording/stimulation study
  • Willing and able to attend multiple research visits and perform at-home research protocol
  • Willing and able to provide informed consent
  • Ability to speak and read English

You CAN'T join if...

  • Meets DSM-V criteria for a psychotic disorder, eating disorder, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, tic disorder, or another comorbid psychiatric disorder other than MDD or generalized anxiety disorder based on a SCID
  • Generalized anxiety disorder is the primary DSM-V disorder during the current MDD episode
  • Active suicidal ideation with intent and plan as defined by a score of 5 on the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS)
  • History of suicide attempt requiring hospitalization in previous 2 years.
  • Meets criteria for alcohol or substance abuse or dependence (other than caffeine) in previous 6 months, determined by the SCID
  • Has a personality disorder based on the investigator's assessment that the investigator believes will adversely impact subject compliance or safety
  • Fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Current condition requiring chronic narcotic use
  • History of traumatic brain injury, another neurological disorder, or developmental delay
  • History of seizures
  • MRI (done within one year of the first visit) with significant abnormalities
  • Previous ablative intracranial surgery or previously implanted deep brain stimulation system or any previously implanted device treatment involving brain stimulation
  • Implantable hardware not compatible with MRI or with the study
  • Major medical co-morbidities increasing the risk of surgery including severe diabetes, major organ system failure, history of hemorrhagic stroke, need for chronic anticoagulation other than aspirin, active infection, intracranial space occupying lesion, increased intracranial pressure, cardiovascular accident within the last month, aneurysm/abnormality, retinal detachment, unstable cardiovascular disease (recent myocardial infarction, severe ischemia, severe or uncontrolled hypertension), immunocompromised state, or malignancy with < 5 years life expectancy
  • Inability to stop Coumadin or platelet anti-aggregation therapy for surgery and after surgery. - Patients taking these medications will need to discuss the need/risk of continuing these medications with their physicians and the PI or study personnel may contact the treating physician(s) to discuss the risks of anticoagulation/antiaggregation therapy discontinuation
  • Coagulopathy. Patients will be excluded unless assessed and cleared by hematology
  • Allergies or known hypersensitivity to materials in the NeuroPace RNS® System (i.e. titanium, polyurethane, silicone, polyetherimide, stainless steel)
  • Subject lives alone without possibility of caregiver support post-hospital stay
  • Inability to comply with study follow-up visits
  • Women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or breast feeding
  • Inability to speak and/or read English
  • Inability to give consent
  • Significant cognitive impairment or dementia (MoCA < 25)
  • Likely to require ECT during the course of the study


  • UCSF accepting new patients
    San Francisco California 94143 United States

Lead Scientist at UCSF

  • Andrew Krystal, MD, MS
    Dr. Krystal is the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of Psychiatry, Director of the Dolby Family Center for Mood Disorders, Director of the UCSF Interventional Psychiatry Program and Co-Director of the TMS & Neuromodulation Clinic.


accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
Andrew Krystal
Study Type
Expecting 12 study participants
Last Updated