Felipe Fregni: Expanding the Understanding and Approaches of Neuromodulation

Head Xray

Neuromodulation has been hailed as one of the most promising fields of medicine, with the possibility to revolutionize neurological and psychiatric interventions on dozens of disease models. Used for more than 200 years, it has gained more attention after the use of ECT in the 1930’s and deep brain stimulation in the 1960’s, it has been viewed mainly as a method for managing chronic conditions. However, a new generation of researchers are looking at novel noninvasive methods using

“The focus of my research has largely been centered upon developing methods of neuromodulation as potential treatment tools as well as investigating their mechanisms and impact on brain plasticity. The ultimate goal is to develop novel methods of neuromodulation for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders,” said Dr. Fregni.
Dr. Fregni has conducted several clinical trials and also mechanistic studies investigating the effects of noninvasive neuromodulatory tools on the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. Some of these highly cited studies investigated the impact of neuromodulation on motor function, mood and cognition; also assessing brain activity changes using neuroimaging (SPECT).

While pushing the boundaries of neuromodulation, Dr. Fregni still has kept a focus on addressing the issues of chronic pain, being the first to publish a trial investigating the impact of transcranial direct current stimulation for chronic pain in spinal cord injury. The study received an award as the top 10 most cited paper in the period of 2006-2008 in the Journal of Pain.

In addition to his research efforts, Dr. Fregni has displayed a passion for teaching. He organized four international symposiums with the most recent one representing a gathering of renowned speakers and faculty from Europe and the United States on neuromodulation in his native Sao Paulo, Brazil. “This conference was a success with more than 400 participants and 30 speakers. There is significant momentum for neuromodulation as we could see by this and other events in this area.” said Dr. Fregni.

An important focus of his teaching is on clinical research methodology – another area that Dr. Fregni has also been doing research to uncover better approaches. Stressing the growing need for strong collaborations on an international level, he joined colleagues to create a 6-month distance and collaborative learning course in clinical research. The course now has an average of over 120 students from all over the world and is sponsored by the Department of Continuing Education of Harvard Medical School. The goal is to train clinical researchers across the globe to use better methods and foster the ability to build the partnerships that lead to scientific discovery. This highly interactive course uses novel educational methods and is based on collaborative learning. It can be viewed at www.clinicalresearchlearning.org.

“To truly maximize and harness the potential of treatments like neuromodulation across various disciplines, we as researchers and clinicians will have to push our abilities to innovate and collaborate,” said Dr. Fregni. “Only by expanding our current thinking and approaches will we truly be able to continually push our understanding of the science of recovery.”


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