Studying a new way to treat depression

Francisco Romo-Nava is interested in the mind-body connection – that communication between the brain and the body and its role in certain illnesses.

His interest has led him to study whether altering that communication might lead to better treatment options for patients with psychiatric disorders.

“After I received my MD and started practicing as a psychiatrist, I became increasingly interested in the mechanisms involved in brain-body communication and the tie between mental and physical health,” he says, adding that his interest drove him to seek a doctorate in neuroscience.

He calls his research “neuroscience of the body in psychiatric disorders,” and it led the University of Cincinnati researcher to start a study, being conducted at the Lindner Center of HOPE, to examine if electrical stimulation of the spinal cord could be helpful in treating certain psychiatric conditions, like depression.

This is an example of innovation as part of UC President Neville Pinto’s strategic direction, Next Lives Here.

portrait of Francisco Romo-Nava

Francisco Romo-Nava, MD, PhD, a University of Cincinnati researcher, is conducting a study at the Lindner Center of HOPE to examine if electrical stimulation of the spinal cord could be helpful in treating certain psychiatric conditions, like depression. Photo credit/Colleen Kelley

This patent, which was supported by UC’s Office of Innovation, will help researchers seek additional grants to test this method with other psychiatric conditions and possibly collaborate with private companies.

“It is still early, and we need to conduct much more research before we are able to confirm that this method works,” Romo-Nava says. “One of our ultimate goals is to test this out in larger clinical trials to determine the role of brain-body communication in the study of mental disorders, as well as to explore its potential as a useful therapy.

“These are the first steps in examining this method and could be the initial steps in potentially developing a better treatment for certain patients with depression, avoiding side effects from medications and improving their overall quality of life.”

Featured photo of Francisco Romo-Nava, MD, PhD, with electrodes and device used in the study by Colleen Kelley.

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