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Research at Mass General
Our focus is on neurotherapeutic interventions for severe, treatment-resistant psychiatric illnesses. We focus in particular on post-traumatic stress disorders, eating disorders, major depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Our research spans mechanistic studies, clinical trials and device-based interventions employing a variety of techniques, including neuroimaging and electrophysiology. We also provide clinical services and surgical treatments for psychiatric illness.
Our work utilizes functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) and deep brain stimulation (DBS) to further understanding of psychiatric illness and treatment.
Read a MindScapes article on the Division of Neurotherapeutics
Director of research
Director, Laboratory for Neuromodulation
This multi-year integrated translational neuro-engineering project proposes to co-develop a new deep brain stimulation (DBS) system that actively senses a patient's brain activity, delivers electrical stimulation, and adjusts that stimulation in real time based on the brain's electrical response. These "closed loop" systems offer tremendous potential for bringing new hope to patients living with severe mental illness, especially particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and addiction.
TRANSFORM DBS will create a new generation of medical devices that actively sense a patient's brain activity, deliver electrical stimulation, then adjust that stimulation in real time based on the brain's electrical response. These "closed loop" systems offer tremendous potential for bringing new hope to patients living with severe mental illness. Learn More
While past studies have been successful in identifying functional and neurochemical correlates of individual differences in reward motivation and impulsivity, assessment of causal mechanisms has remained elusive due to the inherent limitations of human neuroscience methods. Here, we test the causal role of human mesolimbic circuitry in reward motivation and impulsivity by examining a cohort of patients undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS) within the ventral striatum. We examine behavior on and off stimulation across a range of tasks that index different forms of learning and motivation.
The long-term goal of this line of research is to help identify the neural circuitry underlying motivation for positive experiences, so as to better understand the etiopathophysiology of anhedonia and motivational deficits found across numerous psychiatric patient populations.
The purpose of this study is to examine patterns of connection and activation in brain regions of patients who have received or will receive cingulotomy or capsulotomy for treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The purpose of this investigation is to use high resolution MRI, specifically diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), as well as resting state MRI, to look at the connection patterns in patients who have been treated with cingulotomy or capsulotomy for MDD or OCD, as compared to healthy controls.
Currently in the analysis stage, this project seeks to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of transdiagnostic cognitive behavioral therapy with the Unified Protocol in treating a full range of anxiety and unipolar mood disorders in individuals with BP-I disorder and comorbid anxiety.
Further, the present study uses fcMRI to explore potential biomarkers of individual treatment response to this approach. By applying a transdiagnostic approach to the treatment of patients with bipolar disoder, this study may offer the possibility of treating bipolar disorder and comorbid anxiety by using a single psychosocial treatment protocol, providing a unique opportunity to investigate whether a transdiagnostic approach is also a feasible approach to treating bipolar disorder.
Ellard KK, Gosai AG, Bernstein EE, Kaur N, Sylvia LG, Camprodon JA, Dougherty DD, Nierenberg AA, Deckersbach T. (2018). Intrinsic functional neurocircuitry associated with treatment response to transdiagnostic CBT in bipolar disorder with anxiety. Journal of Affective Disorders.
Deckersbach T, Peters AT, Shea C, Gosai A, Stange JP, Peckham AD, Ellard KK, Otto MW, Rauch SL, Dougherty DD, Nierenberg AA. (2018). Memory performance predicts response to psychotherapy for depression in bipolar disorder: A pilot randomized controlled trial with exploratory functional magnetic resonance imaging. Journal of Affective Disorders.
Widge AS, Ellard KK, Paulk AC, Basu I, Yousefi A, Zorowitz S, Gilmour A, Afzal A, Deckersbach T, Cash SS, Kramer MA, Eden UT, Dougherty DD, Eskandar EN. (2017). Treating refractory mental illness with close-loop brain stimulation: Progress towards a patient-specific transdiagnostic approach. Experimental Neurology.
Taha Bilge M, Gosai AK, Widge AS. (2018). Deep Brain Stimulation in Psychiatry: Mechanisms, Models, and Next-Generation Therapies. Psychiatric Clinics of North America.
Dougherty DD, Chou T, Corse AK, Arulpragasam AR, Widge AS, Cusin C, Evans KC, Greenberg BD, Haber SN, Deckersbach T. (2016). Acute deep brain stimulation changes in regional cerebral blood flow in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Neurosurgy.
Widge, A. S., Zorowitz, S., Link, K., Miller, E. K., Deckersbach, T., Eskandar, E. N., & Dougherty, D. D. (2015). Ventral Capsule/Ventral Striatum Deep Brain Stimulation Does Not Consistently Diminish Occipital Cross-Frequency Coupling. Biological Psychiatry.
Widge, A. S., Arulpragasam, A. R., Deckersbach, T., & Dougherty, D. D. (2015). Deep brain stimulation for psychiatric disorders. Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences: An interdisciplinary, searchable, and linkable resource.
Widge, A.S., Deckersbach, T., Eskandar, E. N. & Dougherty, D. D. Deep Brain Stimulation for Treatment-Resistant Psychiatric Illnesses: What Has Gone Wrong and What Should We Do Next? Biological Psychiatry. 2015 Jun 10.
Widge, A. S., & Dougherty, D. D. (2015). Deep Brain Stimulation for Treatment-Refractory Mood and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports, 2(4), 187-197.
Nierenberg, A., Peters, A., Stange, J., Sylvia, L.G., Otto, M.W., Miklowitz, D.J., Dougherty, D.D., Deckerbach, T. Neural predictors of response to psychotherapy for depression in bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorders. 17(47-47), 2015.
Makris, N., Rathi, Y., Mouradian, P., Bonmassar, G., Papadimitriou, G., Ing, W. I., ... & Dougherty, D. D. (2015). Variability and anatomical specificity of the orbitofrontothalamic fibers of passage in the ventral capsule/ventral striatum (VC/VS): precision care for patient-specific tractography-guided targeting of deep brain stimulation (DBS) in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Brain imaging and behavior, 1-14.
Dougherty, D. D., Rezai, A. R., Carpenter, L. L., Howland, R. H., Bhati, M. T., O’Reardon, J. P., ... & Malone, D. A. (2014). A Randomized Sham-Controlled Trial of Deep Brain Stimulation of the Ventral Capsule/Ventral Striatum for Chronic Treatment-Resistant Depression. Biological psychiatry.
Malone, D. A., Dougherty, D. D., Rezai, A. R., Carpenter, L. L., Friehs, G. M., Eskandar, E. N., ... & Greenberg, B. D. (2009). Deep brain stimulation of the ventral capsule/ventral striatum for treatment-resistant depression. Biological psychiatry, 65(4), 267-275.
Corse, A. K., Chou, T., Arulpragasam, A. R., Kaur, N., & Cusin, C. (2013). Deep brain stimulation for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatric Annals,43(8), 351.
Kaur, N., Chou, T., Corse, A. K., Arulpragasam, A. R., Deckersbach, T., & Evans, K. C. (2013). Deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression. Psychiatric Annals, 43(8), 358.
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