Mapping the mind to treat depression
The Obama administration recently announced it will spend billions of dollars to examine the workings of the human brain but this type of research is nothing new for a group of U of C experts.
The Brain Activity Map Project is being compared to the Human Genome Project and this kind of brain mapping has already begun at the University of Calgary.
A cap with 64 electrodes, combined with MRI imagery, is giving researchers a complete picture of brain function right down to the millisecond.
Dr. Andrea Rotzner's team is hoping to help people with depression by using the tools to predict the response to different types of treatment.
“So if I look at brain dynamics before treatment, can I determine, based on brain dynamics whether someone will respond to one type of treatment like drug therapy better than another type of treatment like cognitive behavior therapy or vise-versa,” said Dr. Protzner.
Dr. Protzner says there are three common types of treatment and right now they don’t which type will be best for each patient ahead of time.
“There is research out there to suggest that people who have depression actually have a network in their brain that is responsible for mood regulation that works differently than in people who don’t have depression. So you can measure their brain signal with something called functional magnetic resonance imaging or with electroencephalography and you can show differences between the brains of people who are depressed and the brains of people who are not depressed,” said Dr. Protzner.
Dr. Protzner says they are hoping the research will allow them to create maps of the brain that they can then use to compare others to in order to determine an appropriate treatment for them.
“What we want to do is get a map of brain dynamics that best responds to, for example, cognitive behavior therapy, and a map that’s different, in a predictable way, that best responds to pharmacotherapy. And if we can create these maps and then compare individuals to it then that’s how we could go about predicting treatment options,” sid Dr. Protzner.
Dr. Protzner says that over the next ten years they will have a better understanding of how they can use these tools to also help patients with brain damage.