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Diseases and Disorders

Obtaining a better understanding of the neural features underlying and possible causes of disease states is a major goal at the Berenson-Allen Center. Whether diseases of age, genetics, or lifestyle, we believe imaging and modulating brain activity may be the key to better understanding and, possibly, alleviating many disorders.

Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia

As life expectancy grows to unprecedented ages, diseases of age, especially Alzheimer's and Dementia, are becoming more and more prevalent. Accordingly, understanding and combating this disease has become a major focus of many labs, including the Berenson-Allen Center. Through brain stimulation and imaging, we are exploring various methods to alleviate symptomology and improve the quality of life of those suffering from these debilitating diseases. Current research includes:

  • Combining TMS and cognitive training to examine Alzheimer's progression and remission: Natasha Atkinson
  • Using EEG, pharmaceuticals, and TMS to explore the link between AD and seizure activity: Sanjin Tunovic
  • Utilizing behavioral tasks to investigate learning and executive function decline in subjects with AD: Sanjin Tunovic

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder designates any pervasive developmental disorder. Typically characterized by social deficits, communication difficulties, and focused interests, ASD is still largely a mystery across the medical community. Here at the Berenson-Allen Center, we are combining brain stimulation with measures of plasticity to explore potential biomarkers and therapeutic interventions for this disorder. Current research includes:

Depression

Perhaps the most widely known application of TMS is depression treatment. Despite FDA approval of the NeuroStar device and protocol, much more research is needed before all TMS devices and potential treatment protocols will be approved. Accordingly, we are researching varied off-label TMS parameters and devices that may aid in the alleviation and management of medication resistant depression. Current research includes:

  • Examining the effects of low-frequency TMS on depression symptoms: Elana Anastasio

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a common chronic neurologic disorder characterized by transient seizures. Common comorbidities of this disorder are depression and anxiety. As seizures are often attributable to abnormal electrical neuronal activity, we have long examined the impact of TMS and tDCS both before and during seizure episodes. We hope someday to use brain stimulation not only to predict seizure onset but also to help determine neural markers of developing seizure disorders. Current research includes:

  • Exploring the effects of tDCS on depressive symptoms and working memory in epileptic subjects: Anli Liu

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Although marked early by movement related symptomology, later developments include cognitive and behavioral decline. Via brain stimulation, we are looking at methods of alleviating early motor and later cognitive problems. In addition, we are using measures of plasticity in an attempt to find early onset preventative markers for this disease. Current research includes:

  • Utilizing tDCS to help with PD movement and cognitive decline: Zachary Gray
  • Utilizing digitized movement trackers to quantify movement impairments: Leonie Asboth
  • Exploring the mood and motor effects of TMS in PD subjects: Zachary Gray
  • Combining pharmaceuticals and MRI to examine executive function decline in PD subjects: Sanjin Tunovic

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a gradual decline in thought and emotional responsiveness. Often marked by hallucinations and feelings of paranoia or grandeur, schizophrenia is often treated using fairly powerful psychopharmaceuticals. We are currently looking into biomarkers for this disease that are responsive to TMS and we are exploring the effect of neuromodulation on unique symptom sets. Current research includes:

  • Utilizing imaging to examine the effects of neuromodulation in healthy and schizophrenic subjects: Faranak Farzan

Stroke / Aphasia

A stroke is a rapid decline of brain function caused by a disturbance on the brain's blood supply. A common impairment following some strokes is Aphasia: a disorder of language marked by the inability to speak, read, or write. We are exploring the effect of neuromodulation on apashiatic symptoms and whether or not TMS can be used to help in the rehabilitative efforts of those suffering from this disorder. Current research includes:

Traumatic Brain injury

Traumatic brain injury occurs when a sudden trauma to the head causes damage to the brain. These injuries can be mild, moderate, or severe but each can generate severe cognitive and/or behavioral changes. At the Berenson-Allen Center we are interested in how these injuries impact global network communication and plastic change within the brain. In addition, we are investigating the ability of neuromodulation to prognosticate TBI severity. Current research includes:

  • Combining TMS and EEG to evaluate the effects of mild concussions on neural activity: Marine Vernet

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Contact Information

Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Kirstein Building 158
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-0203
617-975-5322