Through support from the National Institutes of Health, we are developing novel forms of non-invasive brain stimulation treatment to assist patients with recovery from various neurological and psychiatric conditions.

We are currently evaluating Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) as a tool to help individuals quit smoking, decrease their alcohol consumption, decrease stimulant use, and aid in recovery from chronic pain.

Research Projects

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Pain Relief
Effective control of chronic pain is a top priority in the United States. The purpose of this clinical research trial is to examine whether TMS stimulation to certain parts of the brain can improve pain sensitivity.
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Drink Less
Heavy alcohol drinking is prevalent and can be devastating and difficult to treat. This clinical trial is researching the use of TMS as a potential novel, non-medication therapy to help people cut back on their alcohol drinking.
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Cigarette smoking constitutes the greatest preventable cause of mortality and morbidity in the US. This clinical trial is researching the use of TMS to help facilitate quitting cigarette smoking during the critical 7 day period.
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Stimulants- like meth and cocaine – are powerful substances which begin to consume ones life. This is a nationwide clinical trial evaluating the effect of a new, non-invasive approach to helping people decrease their stimulant use.

Research Publications

Our research program is designed to develop and optimize non-invasive electromagnetic therapeutics. We have primarily focused on transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as a tool to treat substance dependence (e.g. tobacco use, alcohol dependence), chronic pain, and other mood disorders.  

Our therapeutic discovery pipeline is divided into 5 themes:  

  • Target Identification studies – often achieved through functional and structural MRI measurements  
  • Target Engagement studies – typically multimodal imaging studies evaluating the effect of the intervention on cue-reactivity or pain  
  • NIH-supported Clinical Trials – larger, double-blind sham-controlled investigations of safety and efficacy  
  • Methods Refinement – utilizing computational modeling and variance observed in our clinical data, we are able to revisit dosing parameters and develop novel pulse sequences for subsequent testing 
  • Preclinical Translational Research – leveraging the strength of animal models we work closely with basic scientists to investigate novel electromagnetic therapeutics 

See a full list of our publications 

Highlighted Press and Media

TMS may help decrease chronic pain and decrease the need for pain medication.

Publication: Post and Courier

2021 symposium on Substance Use Research – Keynote Speaker Video
Developing a neural circuit-based strategy for treating addiction and pain: insight from fMRI and TMS
Colleen Hanlon, PhD, Professor, Department of Cancer Biology and Center for Substance Use and Addiction, Wake Forest School of Medicine.

2021 SOSUR Keynote Video
Neural Circuit Based Strategy for Treating Addiction & Pain
Colleen Hanlon, PhD, Professor, Department of Cancer Biology and Center for Substance Use and Addiction, Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Eureka! ALERT: Dr. Hanlon explains how the brain reacts to drug cues and how TMS might help change the brain. Publication: Eureka Alert

Dr. Hanlon explains how TMS may be able to rebalance the brains reward and control systems
Publication: Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC

The Addicted Brain - Publication: National Geographic - September 2017

Magnetic pulses to fight cocaine addiction - Publication: Science Magazine - September 2017

Time to Cut Back - New Non-Invasive Therapies to Help Reduce Alcohol and Cigarette Use
Publication - Forsyth Magazine - November 2021

Dr. Hanlon interviews with leaders in Stroke rehabilitation about their view on future treatments