Magnets in the brain could control mood, depression

Magnets in the brain could control mood, depression

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

A European research project is planning to use nanoscale magnets to treat neurological disorders such as depression.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow are part of the Wireless Deep Brain Stimulation Through Engineered Multifunctional Nanomaterials project otherwise known as Brainstorm.

The University of Glasgow researchers are partnering with colleagues from Germany, Italy, Spain and Finland on the project, which is supported by €3m (£2.57m) from the European Innovation Council’s Pathfinder programme. and is set to last four years up until March 31, 2027.


The project will develop nanoscale magnets that can be injected into the bloodstream and then guided to positions in the brain where they could help to restore functionality. The team hopes that the research could help develop treatments – or even cures – for such conditions as depression, panic attacks, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

The first step is the development of Smart Magentic Nanomaterials (SMNs) that can be activated by external magnetic fields. This would allow precise thermal and mechanical stimulation of neurons.  

Surface engineering with advanced polymer coatings is expected to enable electrical actuation, endogenous ion channel targeting, delivery of viral vectors and MRI based detection. These magnetic SMNs are applied as magnetite nanodiscs, nanotubes and nanorings.

The research will include injecting the nanoscale magnets into rodents’ bloodstreams in a preclinical study with control achieved using external magnets to deliver neurostimulation to specific neurons in their brains. 


The University of Glasgow team will develop a helmet that will use magnets to control the positioning of the nanomaterials to allow precise targeting within the brain.

Hadi Heidari, Professor of Nanoelectronics at the James Watt School of Engineering, is leading the University of Glasgow’s contribution to Brainstorm.

Professor Heidari said: “Neuromodulation is a treatment that has shown a great deal of potential for treating many conditions. However, our present methods of delivering neuromodulation can require invasive surgeries to implant electrodes, which can be expensive, painful and expose patients to an increased risk of infection.” 

“Brainstorm is an exciting new opportunity to rethink how wireless neuromodulation is delivered. It builds on recent advances in magnetic coil nanofabrication, materials science and medicine to allow us to find new ways to precisely ‘switch on’ or ‘switch off’ neuronal activity for therapeutic effects.” 

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