Meet Rachel Noel, an undergraduate student at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland and the winner of the $1,000 Kidd Family Research Grant. The scholarship will be used to fund Rachel’s honour’s thesis project in the neuroscience department at Memorial. In short, her project will explore a potential new treatment for clinical depression by combining transcranial direct current brain stimulation (tDCS) and a novel drug (SK3 antagonist). The drug will prime GABAergic neurons before an electric current is directed through tDCS. This unique combination has the effect of making the treatment “selective” by only targetting the affected part of the brain. Rachel’s project seeks to find the optimal dose of SK3 antagonist as well as the optimal intensity of tDCS current, and then to apply these two and examine the effects on SK3 channels in the prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of rats. The mPFC brain region was selected for its central role in the regulation of emotion which is negatively affected in those suffering from depression. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The study will be conducted on groups of rats who will receive an injection of NS8593 (SK3 antagonist drug) and undergo electrode placement for tDCS delivery to the prefrontal cortex. Following experimentation, their brains will be extracted and sent for imaging and examination. All animal housing and care will comply with guidelines by the Canadian Council on Animal Care and Memorial’s animal care committee. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Rachel’s fascinating study will lay the groundwork for a potential new selective, non-invasive treatment for humans suffering from depression and who do not respond to traditional pharmaceutical interventions. The treatment, if approved, would be relatively cheap, would limit the side effects of many conventional treatments, and would potentially resolve the problem of patients having to wait weeks or months to feel the effects of anti-depressants. The project is estimated to take six months to complete.