Stanford Psychiatry scholar awarded grant to research impact of attention on rTMS-induced neuroplasticity in human visual cortex

June 12, 2023

Ryan Ash, MD, PhD

We are pleased to announce that the National Eye Institute has awarded a grant to Ryan Ash, clinical scholar and postdoctoral medical fellow in psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

This grant funds Dr. Ash’s project, “Quantitative Electrophysiology to Link Neuroplasticity, Brain State, and Behavioral Change in Human Visual Cortex,” which aims to assess how attention affects the efficacy of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)-induced neuroplasticity. The study particularly focuses on neuroplasticity as it relates to the human visual spatial attention circuit: the visual cortex (the target of visual attention) and the frontal eye fields (the cortical source of visual attention).

Attentional states are experimentally tractable, well-understood, and disease-relevant. During the rTMS portion of the study, participants will be instructed to direct their attention to the same or opposite side of the retinotopic field that the rTMS is targeting.

“These experiments will produce fundamental knowledge to augment the efficacy of rehabilitative neuromodulation therapies for visual disorders,” writes Dr. Ash. The research has implications for visual disorders including hemineglect, scotoma, and amblyopia, and neuropsychiatric disorders including depression, addiction, attention deficit disorder, stroke, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain syndrome, and others.

This early-career funding will support Dr. Ash in establishing a unique research niche at the interface of neuromodulation, neuroplasticity, and brain states – research that Dr. Ash anticipates will lead to a translational program to implement neuromodulation-assisted behavioral and rehabilitation therapies.

Dr. Ash is a T32 research fellow and clinical scholar in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He co-leads the Wellcome LEAP multisite rTMS clinical trial for anhedonic depression in the Stanford Brain Stimulation Lab, and has worked closely with Stanford research mentors Anthony Norcia, professor of psychology, Kim Butts Pauly, professor of radiology, and Nolan Williams, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, on recent projects.

Dr. Ash’s recent publications include “Transcranial ultrasound neuromodulation of the thalamic visual pathway in a large animal model and the dose-response relationship with MR-ARFI” in Nature Scientific Reports and “Increased Reliability of Visually-Evoked Activity in Area V1 of the MECP2-Duplication Mouse Model of Autism” in the Journal of Neuroscience and a preprint article “Stability of steady-state visual evoked potential contrast response functions” in-press at Psychophysiology.

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