Neuromodulation Laboratory to Open on Campus

A new nonsurgical brain modulation laboratory will open this fall on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. This state-of-the-art MnDRIVE laboratory will support research on noninvasive forms of neuromodulation —a collection of therapies that stimulate or inhibit brain activity to treat nervous and psychiatric disorders without the need for surgery. The lab, located at 717 Delaware St. SE in Minneapolis, is funded by the MnDRIVE Brain Conditions core research area and the Institute for Engineering in Medicine.

The new lab aims to further develop and evaluate therapies that treat brain conditions without surgery. One such therapy, transcranial magnetic simulation (TMS), allows scientists to place coils that generate magnetic fields near the surface of a patient’s scalp. The nearby magnetism leads to changes in neuron activity in the brain.  Either increases or decreases in neuron activity can be achieved, and depends on the patterns of magnetic stimulation delivered through the coil.  By placing the coil over areas of the brain thought to mediate patient symptoms, researchers are able to study the therapeutic effects of changing – or modulating - brain activity in those areas. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves TMS as a treatment for depression in patients whose symptoms resist traditional medications. It is also an emerging therapy for schizophrenia, stroke rehabilitation, chronic pain and other brain conditions.

Transcranial current stimulation (tCS), another neuromodulation therapy, uses a mild electrical current to induce changes in brain activity. Researchers will study whether the therapy can serve as another treatment for brain disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

To facilitate the researchers’ efforts, the MnDRIVE lab features more than $220,000 in new equipment, including:

  • Magstimtranscranial magnetic stimulation/repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulationsystem (TMS/rTMS), a device that uses strong magnetic fields to either excite specific neurons in the brain or inhibit them without the need for surgery.
  • Brain Product electroencephalography (EEG) system, which measures and records electrical activity in the brain from a set of electrodes placed on the scalp.
  • A specialized cap worn by patients to aid in TMS and EEG readings.
  • NeuroelectricsStarStim transcranial current stimulation system (tCS), a tool used to apply a weak electrical current to specific parts of the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp.
  • Custom electromyography (EMG) system, which measures a muscle’s response when a nerve stimulates that muscle to help discover abnormalities in the way the nervous system interacts with the muscle.

MnDRIVE Brain Conditions aims to promote research and innovative therapies for brain disorders through partnerships that reach across a wide range of disciplines. Faculty working to establish neuromodulation research from some of these fields include:

  • Bin He, Ph.D., and Hugh Lim, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Colum MacKinnon, Ph.D., Department of Neurology
  • Teresa Kimberley, Ph.D., PT; Bernadette Gillick, Ph.D., PT; and Jim Carey, Ph.D., PT, Program in Physical Therapy
  • Kelvin O. Lim, M.D., Department of Psychiatry