This week’s theme evolved around two excursions, one to the Aalto NeuroImaging AMI Centre facilities, and the other to Sooma Oy, Vallila. What did I learn? At AMI Centre we saw navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (nTMS), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) instrumentation, as well as behavioral studies facilities. I’ll focus on the TMS as it has something in common with the Sooma tDCS, even if the working principles differ greatly.
I’ve been interested in repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) as a non-invasive method to “tune” the operation of brain. It is, among other things, a feasible method to treat severe cases of depression, as I’ve learned from my friends, Drs Fingelkurts (https://www.bm-science.com/), who have developed customized rTMS sequences for exactly that purpose. TMS pulsing increases the probability of neurons firing by inducing an electrical field in the targeted cortical region depolarizing superficial axons and activating cortical networks. (Klomjai, Katz and Lackmy-Vallée, 2015) I asked whether it would be feasible to combine rTMS treatment with simultaneous mental tasking that activates the same region of the brain, to increase the firing rate further. According to our tour guide this ought to work.
As I know meditation alleviates symptoms of depression, among many other things, (Creswell, 2017) it would be an interesting test combine meditation and rTMS. One outcome might be less rTMS treatment times needed for the same effect, and another, such an arrangement could make it easier to use meditation as a method of self-help after the rTMS is over. One hurdle to jump over is meditation is a skill that takes time to learn. For a depressed person, this might be an obstacle, as the initiative, and motivation to persist in something that may produce benefits in the future, is typically lacking. However, there are methods based on neurofeedback that might help to smooth the road.(Garrison et al., 2013; van Lutterveld et al., 2017) Please feel free to use my ideas! 😊
Our visit to Sooma in a way continued along the tracks of TMS in modifying electrical activity of the brain, this time using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). I volunteered as a guinea pig for a demo where I got to put the Sooma cap on and my brain was fried for a short while with a small current between the electrodes. The electrode placement in the Sooma version is generic. In treating depression, one electrode is placed over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex region (F3) that in a depressed individual typically shows pronounced activity, and the placement of the other I can’t remember. Maybe the current was turned too high, even if I didn’t feel any pain? 😉 In any case, the idea is to decrease the probability for firing in that region, thus alleviating depression symptoms. As in the TMS case, also in the case of tDCS, a superposition of synergetic mental tasking with the treatment might boost the process. Another idea that occurred to me was to combine qEEG analysis prior and after the treatment to the treatment plan. One would see in advance whether each particular case of depression indeed correlated with activity in the F3 region, and also whether the treatment was effective in decreasing the activity.
Creswell, J. D. (2017) ‘Mindfulness Interventions’, Annual Review of Psychology, 68(1), pp. 491–516. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-042716-051139.
Garrison, K. A., Santoyo, J. F., Davis, J. H., Thornhill, T. A., Kerr, C. E. and Brewer, J. A. (2013) ‘Effortless awareness: using real time neurofeedback to investigate correlates of posterior cingulate cortex activity in meditators’ self-report’, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(440), pp. 1–9. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00440.
Klomjai, W., Katz, R. and Lackmy-Vallée, A. (2015) ‘Basic principles of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and repetitive TMS (rTMS)’, Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, 58(4), pp. 208–213. doi: 10.1016/j.rehab.2015.05.005.
van Lutterveld, R., Houlihan, S. D., Pal, P., Sacchet, M. D., McFarlane-Blake, C., Patel, P. R., Sullivan, J. S., Ossadtchi, A., Druker, S., Bauer, C. and Brewer, J. A. (2017) ‘Source-space EEG neurofeedback links subjective experience with brain activity during effortless awareness meditation’, NeuroImage. Elsevier Inc., 151, pp. 117–127. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.02.047.