Mental disorders arise from brain circuit dysfunctions: changes in specific networks and connections within the brain. Most current treatments, however, target the whole brain rather than specific circuits. In recent years, technologies such as deep brain stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation have emerged, allowing physicians to directly target and activate individual brain circuits that may underlie mental illnesses. These technologies have often succeeded where medications fail, but they have also come with new challenges: they are expensive, often burdensome to patients, and still cannot guarantee results in any individual patient. Brain stimulation psychiatrist and biomedical engineer Dr. Alik Widge will provide an overview of these technologies and their use to date. He’ll then offer an argument that the problem is not in the technologies we use to treat mental illness, but in the way we define it. He notes, “We need more precise definitions for words like "depression" or "anxiety"—definitions rooted in what the brain and its individual sub-regions actually do as well as the ways in which they can fail. Dr. Widge will give examples of the new and related science of "computational psychiatry," and show how it is leading us to new and more effective concepts in brain stimulation medicine.
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Online via Zoom, link will be sent via email prior to the class
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