Penn Medicine News Blog

July 01, 2015 // By Lee-Ann Donegan // Comments

Repairing Shorts In the Brain’s Electrical Circuitry

Brain and Behavior // Neurodegenerative Diseases

A “short” in the brain’s electrical circuitry is implicated in many neurological and psychiatric disorders, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, attention disorders and major depression to name a few.

How?

“In many ways the brain resembles a large-scale computer network, with hubs and connections that communicate information, divvy up demanding processing tasks, and working together in a coordinated and dynamic way to accomplish the physical and mental functions that we find essential in day-to-day life,” said Roy Hamilton, MD, MS, an assistant professor of Neurology and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the director of Penn’s Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation. Much like the server in an office, when a vital hub malfunctions, it can have a domino effect that negatively influences the entire system.

At Penn, researchers are studying new treatments and testing new devices that stimulate the brain circuitry using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a technique that has been around since the mid-1980s and uses electromagnetic pulses via a powerful magnetic coil placed on the scalp. This can modulate brain activity and potentially provide patients with new options to manage their neuropsychiatric conditions. Its applications grow as research into the therapy expands.

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