Alik Widge, MD, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry

E-MAIL: awidge@umn.edu

Research Interests:

My lab focuses on turning basic neuroscience insights into new treatments, particularly for depression, obsessive-compulsive, trauma-related, and substance-related disorders. In all of these areas, an explosion of new tools lets us dissect circuit function in experimental animals as never before. More than ever, we know that mental disorders arise from problems of information flow in distributed brain circuits, and we know specific patterns of neural activity that are necessary for healthy function. The challenge is finding ways to restore those healthy circuit patterns within the limits of clinical technology: no head fixation, no bulky plugs sticking out of the head, keeping the skull mostly intact, and minimizing (or eliminating!) genetic manipulations. We build the technologies and do the science to make that translation possible. Our work includes basic animal neuroscience, human neuroscience, and applied/clinical studies in humans. Examples of recent projects include:

- Technologies that lock electrical stimulation to the peaks and troughs of brain oscillations, allowing us to control how those oscillations synchronize (or fall out of sync) between brain regions. This oscillatory coherence is believed to be the basic of brain network communication, and controlling it may be a path to restoring circuit function.

- Measuring and modeling how existing clinical stimulation changes ongoing neural firing. From those models, we hope to design rational and theory-informed algorithms that will (A) let us drive brain networks to any desired state and (B) ensure that we are creating the specific patterns that matter most for clinical symptom relief.

- Testing novel neurostimulation designs in human populations, including research with psychiatric patients in formal clinical trials, in epilepsy patients with large-scale brain monitoring montages, movement disorders patients undergoing deep brain stimulation, and healthy volunteers.

Selected Publications:

  • Widge AS, Malone DAJ, Dougherty DD. Closing the loop on deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:175.
  • Herman AB, Widge AS. Dynamic network targeting for closed loop deep brain stimulation. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018;44:219–20.
  • Bilge MT, Gosai A, Widge AS. Deep brain stimulation in psychiatry: mechanisms, models, and next-generation therapies. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2018;41(3):373–83.
  • Widge AS, Ellard KK, Paulk AC, Basu I, Yousefi A, Zorowitz S, Gilmour A, Afzal A, Deckersbach T, Cash SS, Kramer MA, Eden UT, Dougherty DD, Eskandar EN. Treating refractory mental illness with closed-loop brain stimulation: progress towards a patient-specific transdiagnostic approach. Experimental Neurology. 2017;287(4):361–472.
  • Lo M-C, Widge AS. Closed-loop neuromodulation systems: next-generation treatments for psychiatric illness. International Review of Psychiatry. 2017;29(2):191–204.
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