Dr. Alesha Heath is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford School of Medicine and the MIRECC the VA Palo Alto. She earned her PhD from the University of Western Australia and Sorbonne University.

Dr. Heath's research has been primarily focused on the mechanisms and applications of brain stimulation therapies, in particular repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. Her research involves both basic and clinical components with the aim of improving the efficacy of these therapies for the treatment of disorders such as depression and Alzheimer's disease.

Education & Certifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Sorbonne University (2019)

All Publications

  • Memory-related hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor activation pathways from repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in the 3xTg-AD mouse line EXPERIMENTAL GERONTOLOGY Mcnerney, M., Kraybill, E. P., Narayanan, S., Mojabi, F. S., Venkataramanan, V., Heath, A. 2023; 183
  • Hindbrain Stimulation Modulates Object Recognition Discrimination Efficiency and Hippocampal Synaptic Connections. Brain sciences Heath, A., Madore, M., Diaz, K., McNerney, M. W. 2023; 13 (10)


    (1) Background: The cerebellum is well known to have functionalities beyond the control of motor function. However, brain stimulation studies have not explored the potential of this region to impact downstream processes which are imperative to multiple neurological conditions. Our study aimed to look at preliminary evidence that hindbrain-targeted repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in mice could alter motor, cognitive and anxiety measures; (2) Methods: Male B6129SF2/J mice (n = 16) were given rTMS (n = 9) over lambda at 10 Hz for 10 min or Sham (n = 7) for 14 consecutive days. Mice then underwent a battery of behavioral measures. (3) Results: In the object recognition test, only rTMS-treated mice distinguished between the novel object at 5 min, whereas those that received Sham treatment continued to improve discrimination from 5 to 10 min. Additionally, over the 10 min test phase, rTMS-stimulated mice explored the objects less than the Sham mice. This was accompanied by increased colocalization of presynaptic and postsynaptic markers in the hippocampus in the rTMS mice (4) Conclusions: Hindbrain rTMS stimulation elicits improved processing speed in the object recognition test via structural plasticity mechanisms in the hippocampus and could provide additional ways of targeting these important substructures of the brain.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/brainsci13101425

    View details for PubMedID 37891795

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10605381

  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Improves Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Cholinergic Signaling in the 3xTgAD Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD McNerney, M. W., Heath, A., Narayanan, S., Yesavage, J. 1800


    BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a debilitating disorder involving the loss of plasticity and cholinergic neurons in the cortex. Pharmaceutical treatments are limited in their efficacy, but brain stimulation is emerging as a treatment for diseases of cognition. More research is needed to determine the biochemical mechanisms and treatment efficacy of this technique.OBJECTIVE: We aimed to determine if forebrain repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation can improve cortical BDNF gene expression and cholinergic signaling in the 3xTgAD mouse model of AD.METHODS: Both B6 wild type mice and 3xTgAD mice aged 12 months were given daily treatment sessions for 14 days or twice weekly for 6 weeks. Following treatment, brain tissue was extracted for immunological stains for plaque load, as well as biochemical analysis for BDNF gene expression and cholinergic signaling via acetylcholinesterase and choline acetyltransferase ELISA assays.RESULTS: For the 3xTgAD mice, both 14 days and 6 weeks treatment regimens resulted in an increase in BDNF gene expression relative to sham treatment, with a larger increase in the 6-week group. Acetylcholinesterase activity also increased for both treatments in 3xTgAD mice. The B6 mice only had an increase in BDNF gene expression for the 6-week group.CONCLUSION: Brain stimulation is a possible non-invasive and nonpharmaceutical treatment option for AD as it improves both plasticity markers and cholinergic signaling in an AD mouse model.

    View details for DOI 10.3233/JAD-215361

    View details for PubMedID 35068462

  • Improved object recognition memory using post-encoding repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. Brain stimulation Heath, A. M., Brewer, M., Yesavage, J., McNerney, M. W. 2021; 15 (1): 78-86


    Brain stimulation is known to affect canonical pathways and proteins involved in memory. However, there are conflicting results on the ability of brain stimulation to improve to memory, which may be due to variations in timing of stimulation.We hypothesized that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) given following a learning task and within the time period before retrieval could help improve memory.We implanted male B6129SF2/J mice (n = 32) with a cranial attachment to secure the rTMS coil so that the mice could be given consistent stimulation to the frontal area whilst freely moving. Mice then underwent the object recognition test sampling phase and given treatment +3, +24, +48 h following the test. Treatment consisted of 10 min 10 Hz rTMS stimulation (TMS, n = 10), sham treatment (SHAM, n = 11) or a control group which did not do the behavior test or receive rTMS (CONTROL n = 11). At +72 h mice were tested for their exploration of the novel vs familiar object.At 72-h's, only the mice which received rTMS had greater exploration of the novel object than the familiar object. We further show that promoting synaptic GluR2 and maintaining synaptic connections in the perirhinal cortex and hippocampal CA1 are important for this effect. In addition, we found evidence that these changes were linked to CAMKII and CREB pathways in hippocampal neurons.By linking the known biological effects of rTMS to memory pathways we provide evidence that rTMS is effective in improving memory when given during the consolidation and maintenance phases.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.brs.2021.11.009

    View details for PubMedID 34785386

  • Moving Back in the Brain to Drive the Field Forward: Targeting Neurostimulation to Different Brain Regions in Animal Models of Depression and Neurodegeneration. Journal of neuroscience methods Madore, M., Poh, E., Bollard, S. J., Rivera, J., Taylor, J., Cheng, J., Booth, E., Nable, M., Heath, A., Yesavage, J., Rodger, J., McNerney, M. W. 2021: 109261


    BACKGROUND: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is a promising noninvasive therapeutic tool for a variety of brain-related disorders. However, most therapeutic protocols target the anterior regions, leaving many other areas unexplored. There is a substantial therapeutic potential for stimulating various brain regions, which can be optimized in animal models.NEW METHOD: We illustrate a method that can be utilized reliably to stimulate the anterior or posterior brain in freelymoving rodents. A coil support device is surgically attached onto the skull, which is used for consistent coil placement over the course of up to several weeks of stimulation sessions.RESULTS: Our methods provide reliable stimulation in animals without the need for restraint or sedation. We see little aversive effects of support placement and stimulation. Computational models provide evidence that moving the coil support location can be utilized to target major stimulation sites in humans and mice.SUMMARYOF FINDINGS WITH THIS METHOD: Animal models are key to optimizing brain stimulation parameters, but research relies on restraint or sedation for consistency in coil placement. The method described here provides a unique means for reliable targeted stimulation in freely moving animals. Research utilizing this method has uncovered changes in biochemical and animal behavioral measurements as a function of brain stimulation.CONCLUSIONS: The majority of research on magnetic stimulation focuses on anterior regions. Given the substantial network connectivity throughout the brain, it is critical to develop a reliable method for stimulating different regions. The method described here can be utilized to better inform clinical trials about optimal treatment localization, stimulation intensity and number of treatment sessions, and provides a motivation for exploring posterior brain regions for both mice and humans.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2021.109261

    View details for PubMedID 34146593

  • Sleep-wake disorders in Alzheimer's disease: further genetic analyses in relation to objective sleep measures. International psychogeriatrics Yesavage, J. A., Noda, A., Heath, A., McNerney, M. W., Domingue, B. W., Hernandez, Y., Benson, G., Hallmayer, J., O'Hara, R., Williams, L. M., Goldstein-Piekarski, A. N., Zeitzer, J. M., Fairchild, J. K. 2019: 1–7


    This paper presents updated analyses on the genetic associations of sleep disruption in individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD). We published previously a study of the association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) found in eight genes related to circadian rhythms and objective measures of sleep-wake disturbances in 124 individuals with AD. Here, we present new relevant analyses using polygenic risk scores (PRS) and variable number tandem repeats (VNTRs) enumerations. PRS were calculated using the genetic data from the original participants and relevant genome wide association studies (GWAS). VNTRs for the same circadian rhythm genes studied with SNPs were obtained from a separate cohort of participants using whole genome sequencing (WGS). Objectively (wrist actigraphy) determined wake after sleep onset (WASO) was used as a measure of sleep disruption. None of the PRS were associated with sleep disturbance. Computer analyses using VNTRseek software generated a total of 30 VNTRs for the circadian-related genes but none appear relevant to our objective sleep measure. In addition, of 71 neurotransmitter function-related genes, 29 genes had VNTRs that differed from the reference VNTR, but it was not clear if any of these might affect circadian function in AD patients. Although we have not found in either the current analyses or in our previous published analyses of SNPs any direct linkages between identified genetic factors and WASO, research in this area remains in its infancy.

    View details for DOI 10.1017/S1041610219001777

    View details for PubMedID 31739820

  • rTMS for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease: where should we be stimulating? EXPERT REVIEW OF NEUROTHERAPEUTICS Heath, A., Taylor, J. L., McNerney, M. 2018; 18 (12): 903–5

    View details for PubMedID 30350733

  • Medium- and high-intensity rTMS reduces psychomotor agitation with distinct neurobiologic mechanisms TRANSLATIONAL PSYCHIATRY Heath, A., Lindberg, D. R., Makowiecki, K., Gray, A., Asp, A. J., Rodger, J., Choi, D., Croarkin, P. E. 2018; 8: 126


    Definitive data are lacking on the mechanism of action and biomarkers of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for the treatment of depression. Low-intensity rTMS (LI-rTMS) has demonstrated utility in preclinical models of rTMS treatments but the effects of LI-rTMS in murine models of depression are unknown. We examined the behavioral and neurobiologic changes in olfactory bulbectomy (OB) mice with medium-intensity rTMS (MI-rTMS) treatment and fluoxetine hydrochloride. We then compared 10-Hz rTMS sessions for 3 min at intensities (measured at the cortical surface) of 4 mT (LI-rTMS), 50 mT (medium-intensity rTMS [MI-rTMS]), or 1 T (high-intensity rTMS [HI-rTMS]) 5 days per week over 4 weeks in an OB model of agitated depression. Behavioral effects were assessed with forced swim test; neurobiologic effects were assessed with brain levels of 5-hydroxytryptamine, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and neurogenesis. Peripheral metabolomic changes induced by OB and rTMS were monitored through enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and ultrapressure liquid chromatography-driven targeted metabolomics evaluated with ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA). MI-rTMS and HI-rTMS attenuated psychomotor agitation but only MI-rTMS increased BDNF and neurogenesis levels. HI-rTMS normalized the plasma concentration of α-amino-n-butyric acid and 3-methylhistidine. IPA revealed significant changes in glutamine processing and glutamate signaling in the OB model and following MI-rTMS and HI-rTMS treatment. The present findings suggest that MI-rTMS and HI-rTMS induce differential neurobiologic changes in a mouse model of agitated depression. Further, α-amino-n-butyric acid and 3-methylhistidine may have utility as biomarkers to objectively monitor the response to rTMS treatment of depression.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41398-018-0129-3

    View details for Web of Science ID 000438104100001

    View details for PubMedID 29976924

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6033856