Therapeutic Brain Stimulation

The Therapeutic Brain Stimulation division focuses on using advanced neuroscience technology to investigate brain function and develop innovative treatments across a range of disorders. 

We use a range of advanced imaging techniques and novel treatments, including:

To find out more about our research and treatment tools see here.

Our research team is studying potential uses of these techniques in disorders such as:

To find out about current clinical research projects and investigative studies and how to be involved see our Treatment Studies and our Investigative Studies

Therapeutic Brain Stimulation division

Professor Paul Fitzgerald

Deputy Director
A/Prof Kate Hoy, Head Cognitive Therapeutics Program

Senior Research Fellow 
Dr Bernadette Fitzgibbon 

Division Co-ordinator
Dr Karyn Richardson      

Research Fellows / Post Doctoral Reserachers
Dr Richard Thomson 
Dr Neil Bailey              
Dr Robin Cash
Dr Manreena Kaur

Melanie Emonson (CTRP Co-ordinator)
Aron Hill
SungWook Chung

Research Registrars
Dr Leo Chen                   
Dr Odette Edelstein

Research Nurses
David Elliott 
Susan McQueen 
Lenore Wambeek                                                                                                                                                             
Linda Pearce

Research Assistants
Kirsten Gainsford
Laura Knox
Caley Sullivan
Megan Ross
Doctoral Students
Oscar Murphy (DPsych)
Hannah Coyle (DPsych)
Sin-Ki Ng (PhD)
Xianwei Che (PhD)
Shuxiang Tian (PhD)
Robert Cooper (PhD)

Honours Students



Research and Treatment Tools

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a technology which is an effective treatment for
depression and also showing substantial promise as a therapy for a range of other conditions.

TMS is a non-invasive treatment which works by using a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in superficial areas of the brain. A hand-held, plastic-coated coil is placed close to the scalp of the person receiving TMS treatment. An electrical current passes through the coil, creating a magnetic field that stimulates electrical activity in the nerve tissue below the coil.

The effect of the stimulation varies with the frequency and intensity of stimulation and the orientation of the stimulation coil. TMS stimulation has been shown to have effects on mood, motor (control of movement) and cognitive (thinking and planning) functioning.

As well as a therapeutic tool,TMS can be used as a method to investigate brain function.


TMS as a treatment method

Studies have been evaluating the use of TMS in the treatment of patients with depression for over 15 years. At MAPrc we have been at the centre of a worldwide research effort focused on evaluating and more recently improving the use of TMS treatment for patients with depression. We have conducted an extensive series of clinical trials that have contributed to robustly demonstrating that TMS is an effective treatment. We have also conducted extensive research evaluating the use of potentially new and improved forms of TMS treatment.

Because it is a non-invasive therapy that is carried out while the person receiving it is awake and alert, TMS has important advantages over older therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). These include: low risk of side-effects or serious complications, avoidance of the need for anaesthesia and its associated risks, lower costs and less inconvenience to the patient, avoidance of the stigma that ECT sometimes carries, and the fact that TMS is suitable for use in medically unwell people who may not be able to tolerate certain medications or ECT.

TMS is now becoming a widely used treatment for depression around the world. There are clinical programs providing TMS treatment globally, including the US, and its place in clinical practice is gradually being refined.

In addition to using TMS in depression, studies are now exploring its use in other disorders including bipolar disorder, autism, Asperger's disorder and substance abuse. We have conducted, and continue to conduct innovative studies like these, including in depression, autism, schizophrenia, fibromyalgia and obsessive compulsive disorder. You can find more information about this research on the Psychiatric Neurotechnology: current projects page                          

Contact details
Phone: 9076 8538


TMS as a probe of brain function 

TMS is widely utilised as a technique in studying normal and abnormal brain activity. When TMS pulses are applied to the muscle area of the brain, a muscle response is produced, for example in the hand, which can be measured and characterised accurately. This allows researchers to study the function of the motor control system. When TMS pulses are applied to other brain regions, they can be used to interfere with or temporarily augment other brain activities allowing study of these brain functions.

Researchers have also combined TMS with brain imaging methods such as EEG and NIRS as a method of studying brain function in non-motor brain regions. When EEG is recorded during a TMS pulse, we can measure the brain's electrical response to the TMS pulse, which reflects the normal functioning of the brain being stimulated. In a similar way, the brain's vascular response to stimulation can be measured with NIRS.

Researchers within MAPrc have extensively used TMS-EEG and TMS-NIRS methods to study brain function and the response to TMS in healthy subjects and in a number of illness states including depression, schizophrenia and addiction.


Transcranial direct current stimulation

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a relatively new brain stimulation technique. It uses a very gentle electrical current (1-2 mA) to change the activity level of cells in specific areas of the brain. The low current is not enough to cause brain cell to fires, but it changes the environment around nerve cells in the area of the brain that is stimulated making them more or less likely to fire. 

Like TMS, tDCS is a non-invasive technique which does not require any anaesthetic and has minimal side-effects. It also has potential use as a way of investigating brain function but is mostly being explored in the possible treatment of conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, stroke, Parkinson's disease and depression. Currently, it is being investigated as a treatment for depression in people whose symptoms have not been resolved with medication (treatment-resistant depression). 

Over recent years, researchers within MAPrc have conducted a careful series of studies demonstrating that tDCS has the potential to modulate and improve aspects of brain cognition, including learning and memory. These studies are ongoing and hopefully will lead to the development of tDCS methods as treatments for disorders with cognitive dysfunction such as schizophrenia, head injury and Alzheimer's disease.  You can find more information about this research on our current Treatment Studies and Investigative Studies.



Treatment Studies

The Therapeutic Brain Stimulation team is currently researching new treatments and conducting investigative studies for depression, bipolar, OCD, autism, schizophrenia, head injury and chronic pain. 

To read about our current research in these areas and to find out how to get involved, please see below. You can also view our Investigative Studies


Treatment Studies 

1. Accelerated TMS for depression

Aim: To see whether we can speed up the response to TMS. TMS response is usually slow, with a typical treatment course taking between four and six weeks. Over this time, patients are required to attend the hospital or clinic on a daily basis for a treatment that takes approximately 45 minutes. In this study we are investigating whether we can use a higher dose of treatment to get an accelerated treatment response, such that patient's symptoms improve in a much shorter period of time.

Participants: People with treatment-resistant depression  i.e. depression that has not adequately improved with antidepressant medications.

Project status: This project is currently underway.  

Contact details


Phone: 9805 4151


2. DBS for treatment-resistant depression

Aim: To evaluate deep brain stimulation (DBS) in depression that has proved extremely resistant to standard treatments.

Methods: This study involves neurosurgical implantation of a neurostimulator in consenting patients who have severe depression that has proved extremely resistant to all less invasive antidepressant treatment options. 

Participants: As DBS is considered a treatment of last resort, only individuals who have trialled all less invasive antidepressant treatments and remained severely depressed can be considered for the procedure. This means having trialled multiple medications from all antidepressant drug classes, combinations of antidepressant medications, cognitive behavioural therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation and extensive electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Project status: This project is currently in progress.

Contact details:


Phone: 9805 4151


3. TBS for the treatment of fibromyalgia

Aim: The purpose of this project is to investigate the use of a form of therapeutic brain stimulation called Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS), as a treatment for the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Participants: To be involved, participants must be aged between 18 and 75 years and have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Participation will involve attending MAPrc for 16 sessions over a four week period. Each treatment takes approximately 30 minutes. 

Project status: Recruitment underway.

Contact details

Ms. Freya Stockman


Phone: (03) 9881 4498

For further information:



4. Non-invasive brain stimulation in autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Aim: We are currently conducting a number of studies that investigate whether transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can be used to improve social and behavioural aspects of autism spectrum disorder.

Participants: Depending on the study, we are recruiting people aged between 14 and 40 who have a formal diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

Project status: Currently underway

Contact Details

A/Prof. Peter Enticott


Phone: (03) 9244 5504


5. Alzheimer’s Study

Aim: To investiage whether Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can improve the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. TMS is a painless, safe, and non-invasive means of stimulating nerve cells in the brain.

Participant's: Volunteers between 50 and 95 years of age with a diagnosis of mild to moderate Alzheimer's. Participation will involve attending the Alfred for a 2 week or 4 week period of daily (Monday-Friday) treatments followed by a  few follow up appointments (1-2hrs) up to 6 months post treatment. Each treatment appointment takes approximately 30 minutes. Participants will be provided compensation toward your travel and time costs.

Project Status: Currently underway

Contact Details

Ms Veronika Simic

Phone: 03 9805 4151

For more information:

- Download this flyer


Alzheimers_flyer ECIMH 18SEP19.pdf513.19 KB

Investigative Studies

Investigative studies are key to improving our understanding of the nature of mental health disorders and often require healthy controls in addition to patient populations as volunteers.  














Honours projects

Within the Therapeutic Brain Stimulation team at MAPrc, there are a range of potential honours projects available for 2017 and beyond. These will most likely involve the use of brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation or neuroscience tools such as EEG or neuroimaging.

These include studies focused on the following areas:

  • Using TMS to study the role of expectancy and anticipation in motor cortical excitability
  • The role of stimulation duration in working memory enhancement using tDCS
  • Using near infra red spectroscopy (NIRS) to investigate brain changes following Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Cortical Inihibiton, Dorsolateral Pre Frontal Cortex and Working Memory: Using TMS/EEG to establish a neurophsyiological marker of working memory 


Cognitive Therapeutics Research Program

The Cognitive Therapeutics Research Program is headed by Associate Professor Kate Hoy. The group's research is focused on the development of novel biological treatments for cognitive impairment in both psychiatric and neurological illnesses. Information about our current research studies are provided below.


Current Treatment Trials:


Investigating the use of brain stimulation to treat the cognitive symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's

We are seeking volunteers between 50 and 95 years of age with a diagonsis of mild to moderate Alzheimer's. We are investigating whether a form of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can improve the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's. Participation will involve visiting our research centre in Prahran for an initiial interview (2-3 hours), 21 treatments over a 6 week period (each lasting approximately 30 mintues), and two follow up interviews (2-3 hours each).  Participants will be provided compensation toward your travel and time costs.  If you think this sounds interesting and would like to know more please contact Melanie Emonson on (03) 9805 4346 or email or click here for further details.


A longitudinal investigation of the neurophysiological changes related to cognitive performances and the effects of neuromodulation in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

We are seeking adults aged 50 to 70 years who would like to help us to investigate the effects of non-invasive electrical brain stimulation on brain activity and cognition over time in people who meet criteria for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). MCI refers to a decline in memory that does not impact on daily functioning. This study is a 3-year clinical trial. Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) will be self-administered in the comfort of your own home over 3 years, following comprehensive training by a trained researcher. Participation will also involve attending the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) located in Prahran for 7 times each year. Collectively, these visits will involve interviews, assessments, cognitive activities, questionnaires, as well as recording brain activity and collecting blood for genetic analysis. You will be offered yearly reports on the regular cognitive assessments that you undergo throughout the trial. If you would like to know more or are interested in participating, please contact Ms Freya Stockman via phone (03) 9881 4498  or email


Current Investigative Studies:


The relationship between cortical activity and cognitive function after head injury

We are seeking volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 to help us investigate the relationship between changes in brain activity and symptoms after a concussion. We are using a non-invasive type of brain stimulation to learn more about changes post-concussion and during recovery. Participation will involve visiting our research centre in Prahran for three research sessions.  The first session will occur within 1 month since your concussion and take approximately 3 hours. The following sessions will occur 3 and 6 months post-concussion and will take approximately 2 hours each. Together we will complete an interview, do some thinking tasks, take a recording of your brain waves and give you a short session of non-invasive brain stimulation. If you think this sounds interesting and would like to know more please contact Ms Hannah Coyle on (03) 9076 8649 or 


Investigating the therapeutic potential of brain stimulation for apathy in Huntington's disease

Many people with Huntington’s disease (HD) experience problems with motivation, often referred to as “apathy”. There are currently no effective treatments for apathy in HD. We are conducting this study to investigate whether transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), a gentle non-invasive brain stimulation technique, can alter brain activity in a way that may be used to increase motivation in people with HD. We are seeking volunteers with and without HD who are aged between 18 and 65 to participate. Participants need to be able to attend MAPrc for 3 separate sessions lasting 2-3 hours. Each session involves 20 minutes of tACS, completion of a motivation task, and recording brain waves.  Participants will be provided reimbursement toward time and travel costs for each session. If you would like to discuss your eligibility to participate, please contact Marie-Claire Davis at


Investigating EEG patterns in individuals with varying attentional abilities 

We are seeking individuals between the ages of 18 and 55 who either a) practice mindfulness, b) have a diagnosis of ADHD, or c) have no existing or previous history of neuropsychological or psychiatric illness. We are investigating weather there is a difference in brain activity among individuals with varying attentional abilities. Recruitment is expected to begin in early November-December. Participation will include a battery of neuropsychological tests (45 mins), followed by a screening of EEG. During EEG recordings, participants will complete a set of cognitive tasks which work on attention processes (approximately 60 minutes). Participants will be compensated for their time and travel costs. If you would like to participate inn this study please contact Andrea Marcu at