Mexican develops new therapies for mental disorders

By Valeria Bigurra Peñavera

Ana Lucía Meléndez is currently in Germany developing her PhD Project

Ana Lucía Meléndez is a Mexican who is currently in Germany developing new therapies for patients with mental disorders. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are now more than 450 million people in the world suffering from some metal disorder.

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Of all people with a disorder, 25% of those who receive treatment do not tolerate it, or do not respond adequately to the pharmacotherapy or the standard psychotherapy they receive, so she is looking to create a new way of dealing with these patients.

According to the Mexican government’s mental health action plan 2013-2020, mental disorders will have an estimated economic impact of more than 16.3 billion dollars, which is why this Mexican student works on the development of new therapies with direct current transcranial stimulation.

Meléndez is a medical surgeon who graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León. She also has two master's degrees, one in neuropsychopharmacology from the University of Bordeaux, France, and another in medical neuroscience, at the Charité Universitäts-medizin in Berlin, Germany.

AnaLucia2Original Image: "Ana Herrera", by Agencia Informativa Conacyt, under CC BY 4.0, vía Conacyt

Currently, Ana Lucia is doing her doctoral project at the Free University of Berlin, Germany, under the advice of the prestigious scientist Melek Bajbouj, with whom she makes neuroimaging markers and modulators of response to non-invasive brain stimulation in patients with mental disorders.

In this project, Meléndez analyzes the changes in neural networks as a result of non-invasive brain stimulation, and an important part of her project is the study "Psychotherapy Plus", which is part of the studies in the framework of the German Center for Brain Stimulation, a consortium created with the aim of developing new therapies to treat psychiatric diseases.

Her interest is transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), which is a safe, simple, ambulatory technique, and is not expensive.

AnaLuciaOriginal Image: "La paciente de Ana Herrera en el tratamiento", by Agencia Informativa Conacyt, under CC BY 4.0, vía Conacyt

She is currently conducting a randomized clinical study with 180 patients with mild to moderate depression in five of the research centers, and these subjects will receive treatment twice a week for six weeks.

One group will receive psychotherapy along with brain stimulation; another group will receive psychotherapy with placebo stimulation, and a third group will only receive brain stimulation without psychotherapy.

This study is the first in the world to develop a new type of therapy by combining psychotherapy with non-invasive TDCS type brain stimulation and for now, she will continue to enhance experiments as well as recruiting participants.

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