Jonathan Downar

Jonathan Downar, MD, PhD, FRCPC

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The last two decades have seen significant advances in our basic understanding of the neural mechanisms behind psychiatric illnesses, thanks to a proliferation of neuroimaging and neurostimulation studies. The Downar laboratory focuses on translational research, drawing upon these advances to help develop a new generation of tools for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of psychiatric disease.

The major therapeutic approach of the lab employs image-guided brain stimulation via repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Current research focuses on improving the speed, cost, efficacy and range of applications for rTMS in treating psychiatric illnesses. Projects currently underway include evaluating new stimulation targets beyond the standard target in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, more rapid stimulation protocols such as theta-burst stimulation, accelerated treatment courses using multiple sessions per day, and applications of rTMS to disorders other than major depression, such as bulimia nervosa, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

A second major focus of the lab is to develop clinically useful tools for predicting treatment outcome and for selecting the optimal treatment parameters in any given patient. These include the development of reliable automated classifiers for predicting treatment outcome in individuals based on resting-state functional MRI, the development of multimodal biomarker suites for predicting outcomes using a combination of EEG, MRI and behavioural measures.

The ultimate goal of this research is to develop rTMS and other neurostimulation treatments into cost-effective, widely accessible treatment options for patients with psychiatric illness, alongside medications and psychotherapy.
Front Neurosci. 2017;11:401
Mansouri F, Dunlop K, Giacobbe P, Downar J, Zariffa J
J Neurosci Methods. 2017 Jul 22;290:57-68
Ge R, Blumberger DM, Downar J, Daskalakis ZJ, Tham JCW, Lam RW, Vila-Rodriguez F
Neuroimage. 2017 Jun 29;:
Rastogi A, Cash R, Dunlop K, Vesia M, Kucyi A, Ghahremani A, Downar J, Chen J, Chen R
Psychiatr Danub. 2017 Jun;29(2):218-220
Sender D, Nazar BP, Baczynski T, Paes F, Fettes P, Downar J, Campos C, Nardi AE, Machado S
J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2017 May 17;:
Al Shirawi MI, Kennedy SH, Ho KT, Byrne R, Downar J
J Affect Disord. 2017 Apr 26;218:75-81
Ge R, Blumberger DM, Downar J, Daskalakis ZJ, Dipinto AA, Tham JCW, Lam R, Vila-Rodriguez F
Brain Stimul. 2017 Mar 02;:
Cash RF, Dar A, Hui J, De Ruiter L, Baarbé J, Fettes P, Peters S, Fitzgerald PB, Downar J, Chen R
Brain Stimul. 2017 Feb 02;:
Feffer K, Peters SK, Bhui K, Giacobbe P, Downar J

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Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto
Co-Director, MRI-Guided rTMS Clinic, University Health Network