Postgraduate Profiles

Lauren Hennessy

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Thesis: The effect of low intensity repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) on cortical excitability in behavioural and clinical models of depression

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that is being investigated as a treatment option for multiple neurological and psychological disorders, including depression, but the cellular mechanisms remain unknown. Current clinical rTMS applications use high intensity stimulation, but studies have recently identified benefits from using low intensity stimulation.

This project will investigate the biological effects of different protocols of low and high intensity rTMS, aiming to optimise and possibly tailor treatment for depression. I will compare the differences between high intensity, low intensity and a high + low intensity combination of rTMS, different frequencies of stimulation, standard and accelerated protocols, and rTMS vs sham rTMS. I will use animal models as well as human participants (healthy and clinical populations) and use model-specific outcome measures (e.g. neurogenesis in rats; self-reported mood scales in humans) as well as techniques that can be applied to both animals and humans (e.g. MRI scans, biomarker analyses).

Why my research is important

According to the most recent National Health Survey, approximately 10.4% of Australians experienced depression in 2017-2018. This equates to just over 1 in 10 people, emphasising the need to develop highly effective treatments for this disorder. Additionally, not everyone responds to the currently available treatment options for depression (e.g. medications, psychotherapies, etc.). I will be specifically targeting treatment-resistant depression in my clinical study, with the aim of developing a treatment option to benefit as many people as possible.

This project will also be the first study to translate rTMS findings from low intensity preclinical animal studies into clinical treatments for human patients.

Images of the rat brain obtained using various magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques.

Feb 2019

Feb 2023