Of the eighteen million Americans who suffer from major depression, possibly as many as four million are afflicted with what is known as “treatment-resistant” depression. For them, nothing works, not even electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Their lives are crippled with the disorder and many ultimately commit suicide.

However, there may be hope for them on the horizon. Early results from an experiment in Canada may hold the key. It involves surgery on a region of our brains called Area 25. This tiny node is deep in the very center of our brains and is connected to other areas that control sleep, appetite and drive, all the things that go awry when someone’s depressed.

According to Dr. Helen Mayberg, the study’s lead neurologist, if you slow down area 25, you treat the disease. She decided to try a technique called deep brain stimulation, that involves threading two thin electrodes through the brain, directly into Area 25 and stimulating it with continuous pulses of electricity from a pacemaker in order to jolt it back to normal.

The surgery has already made some very significant improvements for the few people who volunteered for the procedure, sufferers who were previously severely debilitated and who had tried all other treatment options without success.