Associate Chief Research Officer for The Research Institute at Lindner Center of HOPE Receives US Patent for Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation for Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders

Office of Innovation at University of Cincinnati Supported Utility Patent Process for this Method to Modulate Brain-Body Communication

Francisco Romo-Nava, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Chief Research Officer for The Research Institute at Lindner Center of HOPE and Assistant Professor for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, has been awarded a United States patent for transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation for the purpose of treating psychiatric disorders. The Office of Innovation at University of Cincinnati supported the utility patent process for this method to modulate brain-body communication in the context of psychiatric disorders.

The utility patent will aid in the advancement of grant proposals for testing the use of this method in treating psychiatric disorders, allowing for concept expansion, the possibility of private company collaboration to further develop the method, and potential funding for the development of technology for delivering the treatment for public good.

Romo-Nava has been exploring a novel “Neuroscience of the Body” research approach that considers psychiatric disorders not only affect the brain, but also the body. Likewise, the body also affects the brain.

In 2018, The Research Institute at Lindner Center of HOPE launched a pilot study specifically looking at the communication between the brain and the body and the role spinal pathways play in the origins of psychiatric disorders. The hypothesis is that the communication between the brain and the body is disturbed in patients with Major Depressive Disorder (and other psychiatric disorders) which contributes to depressive symptoms and consequently may contribute to elevate the risk of medical comorbidity. Though this area needs additional study, it has been gaining focus as it explains why a patient with a psychiatric disorder might also have more physical illness.

The study, which is ongoing, is looking at the impact of non-invasive spinal stimulation for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. The team is testing an exclusively investigational device to apply a small electrical current through the skin to modulate spinal pathways and modify the disturbed communication between the brain and the body. The patent will protect the idea of modulating the spinal cord function for the purposes of treating psychiatric disorders with UC as assignee.

“We are proposing that by modulating spinal cord function we can have an effect on the psychiatric disorder. We are gathering these data to give us a signal of how to develop new methods to treat depression and, ideally, expand to other psychiatric disorders,” said Romo-Nava.

Romo-Nava received the 2017 Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) granted by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation for this study. Dr. Romo-Nava is also currently funded by a NIMH K23 Career Development Award.

The study is currently recruiting participants between the ages of 18 and 55 who are currently moderately depressed for at least one month and not currently on medication for the treatment of depression. Participants would be required to complete a phone screening, attend a screening visit that includes labs and other tests, attend a baseline visit and attend 20-minute stimulation sessions three times per week for eight weeks. Eligible participants will be compensated up to $250 for their time and travel. A pre-screening questionnaire, as well as more information on this and other studies conducted at the Lindner Center of HOPE Research Institute can be found at


Lindner Center of HOPE  provides excellent, patient-centered, scientifically advanced care for individuals suffering with mental illness. A state-of-the-science mental-health center and charter member of the National Network of Depression Centers, the center provides psychiatric hospitalization and partial hospitalization for individuals 12 years and older, outpatient services for all ages, diagnostic and short-term residential services for adults and adolescents, intensive outpatient program for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders for adults and research. The center is enhanced by its partnership with UC Health as its clinicians are ranked among the best providers locally, nationally and internationally. Together Lindner Center of HOPE and UC Health offer a true system of mental health care in the Greater Cincinnati area and across the country. The center is also affiliated with the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine.