Dr Sitaram’s collaboration receives Chilean grant for the application of brain-computer interfaces in depression and schizophrenia

Dr. Sitaram’s Lab and the Interdisciplinary Center of Neuroscience, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile received a grant award for the project “Brain-Computer-Interfaces for the enhancement of brain networks and emotion processing: applications in depression and schizophrenia”, by the Ministry of Education of the Chilean Government. Faculty members and clinical scientists, Professors Dr. Francisco Aboitiz and Dr. Sergio Ruiz of the Chilean university, who are Dr. Sitaram’s collaborators, released this news recently. Dr. Sitaram would be supported for travel and stay, and student exchange by this funding. Below is a summary of the research project. 

Schizophrenia and depression are brain disorders that share serious emotional dysfunctions. Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) may offer a non-invasive new approach to directly modulate brain activity leading to behavioral modifications. In this study, we will implement a BCI in patients suffering from chronic depression and schizophrenia for the modulation of emotional processing deficits, and will subsequently apply it in two separate experiments. In the first experiment, we will train schizophrenia patients to increase the connectivity of fronto-parietal networks involved in the conscious perception of emotional stimuli, by operant conditioning, using real-time EEG neurofeedback. We expect that learned up-regulation of the activity in the emotion circuitry will produce an enhancement in the capability to detect subliminal emotional stimuli. In the second study, we will build a pattern learning algorithm in the BCI to train chronic depressive patients to activate the brain’s emotion circuitry towards the healthy or normal state of functional connectivity. We will explore behavioral effects due to BCI training with clinical and behavioral measures. We believe that the results obtained from these two experiments will enhance our knowledge about the neural bases of depression and schizophrenia and help to identify novel treatment for these syndromes.

Congratulations, Dr. Sitaram!