Closed-loop neuromodulation systems: next-generation treatments for psychiatric illness

Meng Chen Lo, Alik S. Widge

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Despite deep brain stimulation’s positive early results in psychiatric disorders, well-designed clinical trials have yielded inconsistent clinical outcomes. One path to more reliable benefit is closed-loop therapy: stimulation that is automatically adjusted by a device or algorithm in response to changes in the patient’s electrical brain activity. These interventions may provide more precise and patient-specific treatments. This article first introduces the available closed-loop neuromodulation platforms, which have shown clinical efficacy in epilepsy and strong early results in movement disorders. It discusses the strengths and limitations of these devices in the context of psychiatric illness. It then describes emerging technologies to address these limitations, including pre-clinical developments such as wireless deep neurostimulation and genetically targeted neuromodulation. Finally, ongoing challenges and limitations for closed-loop psychiatric brain stimulation development, most notably the difficulty of identifying meaningful biomarkers for titration, are discussed. This is considered in the recently-released Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework, and how neuromodulation and RDoC are jointly very well suited to address the problem of treatment-resistant illness is described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-204
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this work was supported in part by grants from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, Harvard Brain Initiative, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (cooperative agreement W911NF-14-2-0045, issued by the Army Research Office contracting office in support of DARPA?s SUBNETS program), and National Institute of Mental Health (MH109722-01).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Institute of Psychiatry and Johns Hopkins University.


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • bioengineering
  • biomarker
  • electrophysiology
  • neuromodulation
  • transdiagnostic


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