Non-Invasive Electrical Stimulation of Cells Chemically Predisposed for Excitability as a Cell Type-Specific Treatment for Depression

Lay Summary 
Depression is a serious condition that affects millions of Canadians each year. Although many options are available for treatment, many of them are associated with serious limitations, such as slow onset of relief and dangerous side effects. These problems highlight the need for new interventions that can effectively and safely relieve depressive symptoms. I will test a novel experimental technique to treat depression called EC stimulation, which will allow researchers to influence the activity of different types of brain cells without the need for invasive surgeries or complex genetic techniques. This will be done by combining non-invasive electrical brain stimulation with a drug that targets a specific kind of cell. These cells, known as interneurons, are located within the frontal lobe of the brain and have been found to influence depressive symptoms. By combining the effects of a weak dose of these two treatments, the activity of these interneurons can be increased, making them more likely to fire signals without affecting any other cell type. Using brain cell imaging techniques, I will locate markers for cell activity within the frontal lobe to verify that EC stimulation is successful in activating only these interneurons. I will also test whether this treatment can reverse depressive-like symptoms in a rat model of depression, and if this effect is related to chemical changes in other parts of the brain. My research will evaluate the effectiveness of EC stimulation as a method to selectively activate certain cell types. This will provide an important lead for determining the effects that different cell clusters have on mental health, while also promoting the development of better treatment options for difficult to treat disorders. Consequently, this project will guide further research towards the development of EC stimulation as a safe, simple, and accessible treatment for patients suffering from depression in both Canada and throughout the world. 


Canadian Institute For Health Research
Newfoundland and Labrador
Industry Sectors 
Health Care and Social Assistance
Start date 
1 May 2020
End date 
30 Apr 2023