A lecture by Dr. Danielle Bassett, Skirkanich Professor of Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania

The treatment of psychiatric disease and neurological disorders is a critical frontier in human health. Current treatment regimens include drugs, brain stimulation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In each case, these treatments can be thought of as ways of changing the activity of specific parts of the brain. Yet, from a fundamental perspective, we still do not have a basic theory of how changing the activity of one part of the brain impacts the activity in other parts of the brain. Thus, we often cannot predict whether betterment of one area will lead to detriments in another. In this talk, I will discuss the development of such a theory, drawing on principles of mathematics and physics referred to in the engineering literature as “network control theory”. I will describe a few recent studies exercising that theory to explain how the brain controls its own activity. Then, I will discuss how we can use this theory to devise more targeted, and more personalized, interventions for mental health. Finally, I will discuss important ethical considerations germane to this work.

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