One of the best hopes for improved treatments for depression lies in learning how brain circuits are organized, and then developing ways to alter circuit anomalies that cause disease. One promising new approach for treating depression by altering brain circuit behavior is deep brain stimulation. This therapy already is used to treat Parkinsonism and epilepsy, but application for depression is still in its infancy. What’s needed to make this a more viable treatment for depression are devices that integrate emerging technologies, such as brain-machine interfaces, and biological techniques like optogenetics, which uses light to control cells in living tissues and can alter brain activity.
Over the past two years, psychologist Tad Blair, and computer scientist Jason Cong have been working together to develop novel hardware and software tools for neuroengineering applications. This unique scientific collaboration aims to develop new tools to create advanced computing devices that can eventually be made compact and energy-efficient enough to be worn by patients, yet powerful enough to perform myriad brain-like calculations at extremely high speeds. Their work will serve as a platform for research and development of neuroprosthetic devices to offer new modes of treatment for depression.
This update was included in the DGC Summer Newsletter, written by UCLA Student/Depression Grand Challenge Student Worker, Emilia Szmyrgala.