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Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Seed Grant: Closed-loop neurochemical sensing and modulation system for treating psychiatric disorders

Seed Grants
Awarded in 2018

Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 9 - 2018

Xiaoke Chen, Biology
Zhenan Bao, Chemical Engineering

Psychiatric disorders (anxiety and depression) and addiction are chronic conditions that impose a huge burden on individuals, families and society. An unbalance of monoamines, including the dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine systems, is commonly observed in psychiatric disorders. Monoamine systems are the target for many of the pharmacological treatments of these disorders. In most cases, the medication acts on multiple monoamines systems with varying affinity across different brain regions. This makes it challenging to define how the drug improves the symptoms of a psychiatric disorder and limits our ability to design the treatment to avoid side effects. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves direct modulation of neural activity at a specific location and is currently in clinical trials as an alternative treatment of psychiatric disorders. However, its beneficial effects are often transient and underlying mechanisms unknown. Brain regions such as nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex have been proposed as the DBS targets for treating addiction and depression, respectively. Since the activity of these brain regions is heavily influenced by monoamines, monitoring DBS induced fluctuations of monoamines in these regions could provide beneficial neurochemical feedback for optimizing DBS protocols. We propose to develop and validate the first closed-loop neuromodulation system would allow for real-time monitoring and control of monoamine release in the brain of a behaving animal. This closed-loop system would provide a novel insight into the neural mechanisms underlying DBS. Xiaoke Chen’s lab studies neural circuits in nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex, and their changes in animal models of psychiatric disorders. Zhenan Bao’s lab has pioneered using laser induced graphene method to fabricate miniaturized but highly sensitive electrochemical sensors. By combining the complimentary expertise of both groups we will create a powerful research tool that ultimately could become transformative treatment for patients with psychiatric disorders.