Mental disorders arise from brain circuit dysfunctions, but most of our treatments target the whole brain rather than defined circuits. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a more circuit-directed approach that has done well in movement disorders, but has mixed results in psychiatric clinical trials. Part of the difficulty is that psychiatric DBS is delivered in a trial-and-error fashion, without clear guidance on how to engage the target circuits. I will present a new approach to defining and verifying target engagement, based on understanding DBS’ effects on cognition and decision-making. My lab has identified ways in which DBS can augment cognitive flexibility and cognitive control, and has linked those changes to cortical electrophysiology. In animals, we have developed new approaches to understand how those changes occur and how we can leverage them for clinical benefit. I will describe how, taken together, these approaches offer the prospect of a new generation of rationally designed brain stimulation therapies.

Alik Widge
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
University of Minnesota

Alik Widge – Engineering Brain Circuits of Cognitive Flexibility