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Dr. Jonathan Downar - University Health Network. Toronto, ON, CA

Dr. Jonathan Downar Dr. Jonathan Downar

Psychiatrist, Toronto Western Hospital | University Health Network

Toronto, ON, CANADA

Drawing on recent advances in functional neuroimaging to treat depression





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Brain Stimulation Dr. Jonathan Downar Public Talk (full talk) 4.48 Psychosis cast session Breakfast with Dr. Jonathan Downar (highlights) rTMS: An Update on Recent Progress in Toronto




Dr. Jonathan Downar completed his PhD in brain imaging at the Toronto Western Hospital in 2002, his medical degree in 2005 at the University of Calgary, and his residency training in psychiatry at the University of Toronto in 2010. Shortly thereafter he established UHN’s MRI-Guided rTMS Clinic. The clinic currently receives over 400 referrals annually. The clinic uses new technologies for non-invasive brain stimulation to treat patients with medication-resistant major depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, OCD, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Downar's research and clinical work focuses on translating the last decade's enormous advances in neuroscience into a new generation of more effective and more rapidly-acting treatments for patients with psychiatric conditions. Using brain imaging, targeted brain stimulation, and new types of medications, the goal is create inexpensive, scalable, accessible treatments that can achieve remission in 1-2 weeks for the 275,000 Ontarians currently living with medication-resistant depression and other psychiatric conditions.

Dr. Downar's work has been published in a variety of high-impact international research journals, and has also been featured in a variety of public forums including the Globe and Mail, London Daily Mail, CTV's "Dr. Marla and Friends", Yahoo Health, Fox News, WebMD, and most recently, the April 2014 issue of Canada's FLARE magazine. He is the author of a forthcoming textbook on cognitive neuroscience from Oxford University Press, along with co-author David Eagleman. In the past, he has also served as a scientific and screenwriting consultant on the IMAX film "Wired to Win: Surviving the Tour de France".

Industry Expertise (6)

Research Health Care - Services Health Care - Providers Health Care - Facilities Health and Wellness Advanced Medical Equipment

Areas of Expertise (10)

Neuroscience Psychiatry Clinical Research Mental Health Translational Research Neuroimaging Cognition Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation FMRI Brain Stimulation

Education (4)

University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine: FRCPC, Psychiatry Residency Program 2010

University of Calgary: MD, Medicine 2005

University of Toronto, Institute of Medical Science: Ph.D., Neurobiology and Neurosciences 2002

McGill University: B.Sc., Biology 1997

Affiliations (1)

  • Wired to Win : Surviving the Tour de France : Scientific and Screenwriting Consultant

Media Appearances (5)

Promising depression treatment may soon be available in Ontario

HealthyDebate  online


In the case of depression, however, some areas involved in regulating emotions, thoughts and behaviours are overactive. This means some circuits, or roadways, in the brain get stuck in certain activity patterns preventing others from operating normally. “Imagine if rush-hour traffic wasn’t just one or two hours, but lasted all day. The city would be gridlocked,” says Dr. Downar. “And what depression looks like on a brain scan is gridlock that doesn’t go away,” he said referring to areas of the brain that are unusually overactive...

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Andre Picard talks to the Ontario Brain Institute about emerging depression trreatments

The Globe and Mail  online


Dr. Jonathan Downer is interviewed on the development of new treatments combating depression...

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Brain Stimulation May Treat Bulimia

LiveScience  online


After one 42-year-old woman received the electrical stimulation, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), as a treatment for her depression, and showed an unexpected recovery from her 20-year battle against bulimia nervosa, her doctors conducted a pilot study to see whether the treatment would also work for other patients with eating disorders, said Dr. Jonathan Downar, of the University of Toronto. Downar described the study Tuesday (Nov. 12) here at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience...

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When doctors make bad calls

The Globe and Mail  online


Using fMRI scans, the researchers found that the physicians who failed the test showed more activity in their frontal lobe when the treatment worked; the small group of physicians who passed, however, had busier frontal lobes when their treatment failed. In other words, says Jonathan Downar, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, the doctors who learned more quickly were the ones who paid the most attention to the times when they messed up...

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Magnetic brain stimulation shows promise in treating depression and PTSD

Global News  tv


It is called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS. It was demonstrated for a Global News camera by researcher Dr. Jonathan Downar, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

With the help of an assistant, he showed how they make a detailed map of a patient’s brain and use it to pinpoint powerful and focused magnetic pulses to an area linked with depression. Dr. Downar pointed out that these kinds of techniques were pioneered in the 1990s, but it is only recently that new, more sophisticated technology has allowed clinicians to reach deeper inside the brain, to a region called the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex.

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Event Appearances (3)

Breakfast with Dr. Jonathan Downar

Speaker Series  Toronto, ON.


Neuroimaging Predictors of Treatment Response in Depression

CANMAT Mood and Brain Conference  Toronto, ON.


Mood and Brain: Molecular Markers, Neuroimaging, and Neuroscience

CANMAT Mood and Brain Conference  Toronto, ON.


Articles (6)

New targets for rTMS in depression: a review of convergent evidence Brain Stimulation


Although rTMS is moving steadily into the mainstream as a treatment for medically refractory depression, its efficacy continues to lag behind that of more invasive neuromodulation treatments such as ECT or DBS. Here we review evidence to suggest that a fruitful, but ...

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Interoception drives increased rational decision-making in mediators playing the ultimatum game Frontiers in Neuroscience


Human decision-making is often conceptualized as a competition between cognitive and emotional processes in the brain. Deviations from rational processes are believed to derive from inclusion of emotional factors in decision-making. Here, we ...

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Neural correlates of the prolonged salience of painful stimulation Neuroimage


Pain is a unique class of sensory experience from the perspective of salience. Nonpainful somatosensory stimuli usually require behavioral relevance or voluntary attention to maintain salience. In contrast, painful stimuli tend to have sustained salience even without ...

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A cortical network sensitive to stimulus salience in a neutral behavioral context across multiple sensory modalities Journal of Neurophysiology


Stimulus salience depends both on behavioral context and on other factors such as novelty and frequency of occurrence. The temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) responds preferentially to behaviorally relevant stimuli and is thought to play a general role in ...

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The effect of task relevance on the cortical response to changes in visual and auditory stimuli: an event-related fMRI study Neuroimage


Attention is, in part, a mechanism for identifying features of the sensory environment of potential relevance to behavior. The network of brain areas sensitive to the behavioral relevance of multimodal sensory events has not been fully characterized. We used event- ...

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A multimodal cortical network for the detection of changes in the sensory environment Nature Neuroscience


Sensory stimuli undergoing sudden changes draw attention and preferentially enter our awareness. We used event-related functional magnetic-resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify brain regions responsive to changes in visual, auditory and tactile stimuli. Unimodally ...

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