Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a Safe and Effective Brain Stimulation Tool
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive technique that is used to study brain function and is utilized for a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic applications for psychiatric disorders and neurologic diseases .
This project is advertised as part of the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. It is currently not available to self-funded applicants.
Excitation and depolarization of the neurons in the brain and surrounding nervous system is performed through very weak electric fields in the brain, which are generated via very short, very intense magnetic pulses created by a magnetic coil placed outside of the cranium.
In the past several years significant research efforts have been aimed at designing coils with an increased penetration depth of stimulation but, at the same time, that stimulate only the required areas of brain, therefore making the technique safer in use. The design , which contains “figure-of-eight” coil accompanied with a Halo coil, was firstly developed at Cardiff University together with Iowa State University and Magstim Ltd., the leading provider in advanced Neurostimulation products, and serves now as a base for further improvements [3, 4].
The clinical applications are still severely limited due to a single but crucial factor, i.e. uniqueness of a patient. Not only the skulls are different having its effect on the value of electric field generated in the brain, but phosphene and motor thresholds, i.e. values of electrical current identified for safe neuron excitation, vary as well from a subject to subject.
The proposed research aims to address these issues utilizing a true image of a brain of a subject (obtained by MRI) in computer simulations of the full model (TMS coil and a realistic head model) using electro-magnetic & computational life science simulation software. Values of thresholds experimentally identified from combining TMS with MRI will be estimated by computer simulations. In parallel, further developments in magnetic coils design and performance using standard Finite Element Method computer simulations are planned.
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