Doctor Tailoring Cognitive Therapies for Patient Personalization Wins Grand Prize

by Max Heirich
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Dr. Robert Reinhart, an Assistant Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at Boston University (BU), won the grand prize of the Science & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation. Reinhart won for his work in using new technologies to create personalized cognitive therapies for patients.

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Cognitive Decline and its Therapies

Cognitive disorders such as aging and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) number some of the most disabling mental conditions for a person to have. Slow symptom resolution, as well as side effects, limit cognitive therapies that currently treat these conditions. This results from these therapies not being designed personally for each patient.

Dr. Reinhart and his team research improvements for the personalization of cognitive therapies. Using transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) technology, Reinhart noninvasively manipulates the rhythmic activity of a patient’s brain. This allows him and his team to gain immediate control over components of human cognition, resulting in a treatment explicitly tailored to each patient’s anatomy. They achieved this method after utilizing and improving upon a new neuromodulation approach known as high-definition transcranial alternating current stimulation (HD-tACS).

This technology uses electrodes attached to a patient’s head, delivering currents to water-soluble electrode gel upon the skin. While this occurs in twenty-minute sessions, the patient comfortably sits upright and performs cognitive tasks. 

Using HD-tACS, Reinhart delivered personalized cognitive therapies to improve memory in elderly patients and treated factors of ODC in others. However, despite Reinhart finding positive results in his tests, his team is currently the only one to achieve this. 

Winning the Science & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation.

The Science & PINS Prize, an annual contest, awards scientists for outstanding research. Whoever wins this award receives $25,000 in addition to the publishing of their essay in Science.

Dr. Reinhart won the 2022 grand prize for his work developing cognitive therapies. On his work, Dr. Caitlin Czajka and Dr. Mattia Maroso, Senior Editors at Science Translational Medicine, said, “The work by Dr. Reinhart, beautifully presented in his winning essay, highlights the potential of neuromodulation for treating cognitive impairments. Dr. Reinhart and colleagues utilized non-invasive transcranial alternating current stimulation to improve age-related memory function and reduce symptoms of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The results presented by Dr. Reinhart support using this customizable, non-pharmacological intervention to maintain cognitive abilities throughout life.”

Reinhart plans on continuing his work in developing new cognitive therapies to treat a wide range of conditions. Though he asserts that he will continue to develop treatments for aging and OCD, he intends to treat Alzheimer’s, bipolar, and schizophrenia. 

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