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Theses Doctoral

Noninvasive Neuromodulation: Modeling and Analysis of Transcranial Brain Stimulation with Applications to Electric and Magnetic Seizure Therapy

Lee, Won Hee

Bridging the fields of engineering and psychiatry, this dissertation proposes a novel framework for the rational dosing of electric and magnetic seizure therapy, including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and magnetic seizure therapy (MST), for the treatment of psychiatric disorders such as medication resistant major depression and schizophrenia. The objective of this dissertation is to develop computational modeling tools that allow ECT and MST stimulation paradigms to be biophysically optimized ex vivo, prior to testing safety and efficacy in preclinical and clinical trials. Despite therapeutic advances, treatment resistant depression (TRD) remains a largely unmet clinical need. ECT is highly effective for TRD, but its side effects limit its real-world clinical utility. Modifications of treatment technique (e.g., electrode placement, stimulus parameters, novel paradigms such as MST) significantly improve the tolerability of convulsive therapy. However, we know relatively little about the distribution of the electric field (E-field) induced in the brain to inform spatial targeting of ECT and MST. Lacking an understanding of biophysical and physiological mechanisms, refinements in ECT/MST technique rely exclusively on time-consuming and costly clinical trials. Consequently, key questions remain unanswered about how to position the ECT electrodes or MST coil for targeted brain stimulation. Addressing this knowledge gap, this dissertation proposes a new platform that will inform an improved spatial targeting of ECT and MST through state-of-the-art computer simulations of the E-field distribution in human and nonhuman primate (NHP) brain.
Part I of this dissertation aims to develop anatomically realistic finite element models of transcranial electric and magnetic stimulation in human and NHPs incorporating tissue heterogeneity and anisotropy derived from structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data. The NHP models of ECT and MST are created alongside the human model since NHPs are used in preclinical studies on the mechanisms of seizure therapy.
Part II of this dissertation aims to apply the model developed in Part I to electric and magnetic seizure therapy. We compute the strength and spatial distributions of the E-field induced in the brain by various ECT and MST paradigms. The relative E-field strength among various regions of interest (ROIs) is examined to select electrode/coil configurations that produce most focal stimulation of target ROIs that are considered to mediate the therapeutic action of ECT and MST. Since E-field alone is insufficient to account for individual differences in neurophysiological response, we calibrate the E-field maps relative to the neural activation threshold via in vivo measurements of the corticospinal tract response to single pulses (motor threshold, MT). We derive an empirical estimate of the neural activation threshold by coupling simulated E-field strength with individually measured MT. The E-field strength relative to an empirical neural activation threshold and corresponding volume of suprathreshold stimulation (focality) is examined to inform the selection of ECT and MST stimulus pulse amplitude that will result in focal ROI stimulation. We contrast the ECT/MST stimulation strength and focality with conventional fixed and individually titrated pulse amplitude necessary to induce a seizure (seizure threshold, ST) to study pulse amplitude adjustment as a novel means of controlling stimulation strength and focality. This work provides a basis for rational dosing of seizure therapies that could help improve their risk/benefit ratio and guide the development of safer alternatives for patients with severe psychiatric disorders.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Laine, Andrew F.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014