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The case for adaptive neuromodulation to treat severe intractable mental disorders

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Mental disorders are a leading cause of disability worldwide, and available treatments have limited efficacy for severe cases unresponsive to conventional therapies. Neurosurgical interventions, such as lesioning procedures, have shown success in treating refractory cases of mental illness, but may have irreversible side effects. Neuromodulation therapies, specifically Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), may offer similar therapeutic benefits using a reversible (explantable) and adjustable platform. Early DBS trials have been promising, however, pivotal clinical trials have failed to date. These failures may be attributed to targeting, patient selection, or the “open-loop” nature of DBS, where stimulation parameters are chosen ad hoc during infrequent visits to the clinician's office that take place weeks to months apart. Further, the tonic continuous stimulation fails to address the dynamic nature of mental illness; symptoms often fluctuate over minutes to days. Additionally, stimulation-based interventions can cause undesirable effects if applied when not needed. A responsive, adaptive DBS (aDBS) system may improve efficacy by titrating stimulation parameters in response to neural signatures (i.e., biomarkers) related to symptoms and side effects. Here, we present rationale for the development of a responsive DBS system for treatment of refractory mental illness, detail a strategic approach for identification of electrophysiological and behavioral biomarkers of mental illness, and discuss opportunities for future technological developments that may harness aDBS to deliver improved therapy.




Provenza, N. R., Matteson, E. R., Allawala, A. B., Barrios-Anderson, A., Sheth, S. A., Viswanathan, A., … Borton, D. A. (2019). The case for adaptive neuromodulation to treat severe intractable mental disorders. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13(FEB).

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