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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Research Topics

Dr. Lisanby is one of the leading researchers in the area of neuromodulatory interventions for treating major depression, serving as a principal investigator on studies involving transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), magnetic seizure therapy (MST), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), deep brain stimulation (DBS) and other devices. The mission of Dr. Lisanby’s unit is to promote the development and refinement of new and existing non-invasive neuromodulation technologies including TMS, transcranial electrical stimulation, and ECT, with the goal of furthering the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses.

Dr. Lisanby and her colleagues pioneered the development of novel technologies such as MST, controllable pulse width transcranial magnetic stimulation (cTMS), and individualized Low Amplitude Seizure Therapy (iLAST), among other innovations. The unit complements the use of non-invasive neuromodulation technologies with electroencephalography (EEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and stereotaxic neuronavigation.

See Dr. Lisanby's current clinical research studies here , and more information about active studies can be found here.


Sarah Hollingsworth “Holly” Lisanby, MD, is an internationally renowned innovator of neuromodulation technologies. She directs the Noninvasive Neuromodulation Unit, a pioneering translational research program in the NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs (IRP) specializing in the use of brain stimulation tools to measure and modulate neuroplasticity to improve mental health. She was the first woman to serve as Chair of the Duke University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, a department she led for 5 years before being recruited to NIMH. She founded and directed both the Duke University and the Columbia University Divisions of Brain Stimulation, where she built interdisciplinary research programs specializing in the convergence of Psychiatry, Neuroscience and Engineering. Dr. Lisanby’s research has been continuously federally funded for over 20 years. She has been principal investigator on a series of NIH and DARPA funded studies on the development of novel neuromodulation technologies, including studies on the rational design of magnetic and electrical seizure therapies.   A prolific author with over 280 scientific publications, she has received numerous awards including a Distinguished Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Max Hamilton Memorial Prize of the Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum, the Gerald Klerman Award from the National Depression and Manic Depression Association, the Eva King Killam Research Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), and holds the title of JP Gibbons Professor Emeritus at Duke University. Dr. Lisanby is a fellow of the ACNP, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and was elected to membership in the Association of American Physicians. She serves on the FDA Neurological Devices Advisory Panel and has held key leadership positions with numerous professional associations.  She also directs the Division of Translational Research, an extramural funding Division at NIMH.

Selected Publications

Neurocognitive Effects of Combined Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Venlafaxine in Geriatric Depression: Phase 1 of the PRIDE Study . Lisanby SH, McClintock SM, Alexopoulos G, Bailine SH, Bernhardt E, Briggs MC, Cullum CM, Deng ZD, Dooley M, Geduldig ET, Greenberg RM, Husain MM, Kaliora S, Knapp RG, Latoussakis V, Liebman LS, McCall WV, Mueller M, Petrides G, Prudic J, Rosenquist PB, Rudorfer MV, Sampson S, Teklehaimanot AA, Tobias KG, Weiner RD, Young RC, Kellner CH; CORE/PRIDE Work Group. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2020 Mar;28(3):304-316. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2019.10.003. Epub 2019 Oct 12 PMID: 31706638.

International randomized-controlled trial of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in depression . Loo CK, Husain MM, McDonald WM, Aaronson S, O’Reardon JP, Alonzo A, Weickert CS, Martin DM, McClintock SM, Mohan A, Lisanby SH; International Consortium of Research in tDCS (ICRT). Brain Stimul. 2018 Jan-Feb;11(1):125-133. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2017.10.011. Epub 2017 Oct 27 PMID: 29111077.

Daily left prefrontal repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in the acute treatment of major depression: clinical predictors of outcome in a multisite, randomized controlled clinical trial . Lisanby SH, Husain MM, Rosenquist PB, Maixner D, Gutierrez R, Krystal A, Gilmer W, Marangell LB, Aaronson S, Daskalakis ZJ, Canterbury R, Richelson E, Sackeim HA, George MS. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Jan;34(2):522-34. doi: 10.1038/npp.2008.118. Epub 2008 Aug 13 PMID: 18704101.

Electric field depth-focality tradeoff in transcranial magnetic stimulation: simulation comparison of 50 coil designs . Deng ZD, Lisanby SH, Peterchev AV. Brain Stimul. 2013 Jan;6(1):1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2012.02.005. Epub 2012 Mar 21 PMID: 22483681.

Safety and feasibility of magnetic seizure therapy (MST) in major depression: randomized within-subject comparison with electroconvulsive therapy . Lisanby SH, Luber B, Schlaepfer TE, Sackeim HA. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Oct;28(10):1852-65. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300229 PMID: 12865903.

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