New center at Butler Hospital will study brain stimulation treatments for PTSD and other illnesses.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and similar conditions seriously challenge the quality of life of people who suffer from them, affecting not only their health but also their ability to learn, to work, and to cope.
Known collectively as neuropsychiatric illnesses, some can be treated using what’s called neuromodulation: noninvasive techniques that stimulate the nerves when low-voltage electrical signals or other energy sources are applied to a patient’s scalp.
But to help more people, researchers must have a better understanding of the brain circuits involved in these illnesses so they can refine existing treatments and develop new ones.
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recognized this critical need when it awarded a five-year, $12 million grant to Butler Hospital earlier this year. The funding establishes the Center for Neuromodulation at the hospital, which will support three Brown psychiatry professors who are investigating brain stimulation treatments for different disorders: Mascha Frank, PhD, for PTSD; Sarah Garnaat, PhD, for OCD; and Nicole McLaughlin, PhD, for impulsive behavior.
Benjamin Greenberg, MD, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School and the director of the OCD Research Program at Butler, leads the new center. Psychiatry professor Linda Carpenter, MD, a nationally recognized leader in brain stimulation therapies and research, is the co-director.
The Center for Neuromodulation is “expanding both research and clinical application of non-invasive brain stimulation across disorders of brain and behavior,” Greenberg says, by unifying scientists who are “all focused on ultimately helping patients by developing new treatments.”