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BRAIN Initiative: Non-Invasive Neuromodulation - New Tools and Techniques for Spatiotemporal Precision


David McMullen, M.D.
BRAIN Initiative


The goal of this initiative is to support grant applications in two related but distinct areas. The first area involves developing and testing novel tools and methods of neuromodulation that go beyond the existing forms of neural stimulation. The second area involves the optimization of existing stimulation methods.


Non-invasive neuromodulation devices have become one of the classes of tools considered for treating and diagnosing brain disorders and could become an alternative or an adjunct to neurological, neuropsychopharmacological, rehabilitative, or cognitive behavioral therapies. Non-invasive devices are defined as those that do not require surgery and do not penetrate the brain parenchyma. These devices include but are not limited to those used for focused ultrasound stimulation, magnetic seizure therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, static magnets, transcranial alternating current stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. Applications involving devices that require surgery or penetrate would not be not supported through this initiative. This initiative encourages studies in two related but distinct areas.

The first area is in the development and testing of novel tools and methods of neuromodulation that go beyond the existing stimulation methods. The rationale for this objective is that existing magnetic and electrical stimulation methods have limited spatial and temporal precision. To overcome these obstacles and move beyond incremental advances in the field, collaborations between physicists, engineers, neuroscientists, and clinicians are encouraged. The fresh perspective of integrative teams would enable the development and testing of novel approaches that leverage other types of energy in a way that can lead to novel tools for scientific discovery and for therapeutic brain stimulation with high spatial and temporal resolution. This type of application may be in the initial stages of pre-clinical development; however, the proposed tools and methods must be adaptable for use in humans. In recognition of the fact that these methods might be in early stages of development, work with human volunteers can, but does not need to, be included.

The second distinct area that this initiative seeks to encourage is the significant improvement of existing stimulation methods. Studies are encouraged that utilize technology improvements and testing methods in areas such as, but not limited to: (1) substantial improvement of the focality and depth of penetration of the stimulus, (2) prevention of extraneous stimulation (e.g., auditory clicking, scalp sensation, stimulation of non- target brain regions), (3) integration with endogenous rhythmic activity and advancing closed-loop stimulation capabilities, (4) use in natural ambulatory settings such as home or community settings, (5) improved sham and control conditions, and (6) development of multi-modal non-invasive recording plus brain stimulating devices.