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Department of Surgery


Dr. Nir Lipsman, MD, PhD

Senior scientist

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Ave., Room A1 39
Toronto, ON
M4N 3M5

Administrative Assistant: Beverly Tang


  • B.Sc., 2004, psychology, University of Toronto, Canada
  • MD, 2007, Queen’s University, Canada
  • PhD, 2013, U of T
  • FRCSC, 2016, neurosurgery, U of T
  • Clinical fellowship, 2016, stereotactic and functional neurosurgery, UHN, U of T

Appointments and Affiliations:

  • Harquail Chair in Neuromodulation, University of Toronto and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Chief, Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Director, Neurosurgery Residency Program, University of Toronto
  • Senior scientist, Physical Sciences, Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program, Sunnybrook Research Institute
  • Neurosurgeon, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Director, Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation, Sunnybrook
  • Associate professor, department of surgery, University of Toronto

Research Foci:

  • Neuromodulation
  • Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Clinical trials

Research Summary:

Dr. Lipsman’s research focuses on the development of novel neuromodulation strategies, which target sites within the central nervous system using electrical stimulation or drugs, for neurologic and psychiatric conditions that are difficult to treat. Over the last 10 years, Dr. Lipsman has helped develop several Phase 1 to Phase 3 clinical trials of deep brain stimulation (DBS) and MR-guided focused ultrasound (FUS) in novel indications, including the world’s first trial of DBS in chronic anorexia nervosa, and among the first published experiences of FUS for essential tremor.

Deep brain stimulation is a neurosurgical procedure used to treat symptoms linked to dysfunctional brain circuits. Dr. Lipsman is developing trials at Sunnybrook that will investigate the safety, clinical, imaging and neuropsychologic effects of DBS in patients with resistant mood and anxiety disorders, such as depression and PTSD. Working closely with collaborators in psychiatry, neurology and neuroimaging, his lab hopes to expand this work to other brain-based disorders, including coma, dementia and stroke.

Magnetic resonance-guided FUS is an image-based, noninvasive surgical procedure used to ablate brain tissue precisely, as well as gain access to the brain by opening the blood-brain barrier. Dr. Lipsman helped lead Canada’s first clinical trials of FUS in essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease, and is developing trials investigating FUS in obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. These Phase 1, first-in-human trials, done in collaboration with Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, director of Physical Sciences at Sunnybrook Research Institute, represent the latest advances in noninvasive surgery, which aims to reduce surgical risk while enhancing outcomes for the most challenging conditions.

Dr. Lipsman also has a strong interest in the broader clinical and ethical implications of neuromodulation, and has been closely involved in the development of international guidelines for the use of surgery in psychiatric disease. He is an active member of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, where he sits on the foundation’s scientific program committee, and is engaged in the development of FUS protocols and programs worldwide and across the neuroscience spectrum, from preclinical to clinical studies.

Selected Publications:

See current publications list at PubMed.

  1. Meng Y, Hynynen K, Lipsman N. Applications of focused ultrasound in the brain: from thermoablation to drug delivery. Nat Rev Neurol. 2020 Oct 26.
  2. Rabin JS, Davidson B, Giacobbe P, Hamani C, Cohn M, Illes J, Lipsman N. Neuromodulation for major depressive disorder: innovative measures to capture efficacy and outcomes. Lancet Psychiatry. 2020 Oct 29:S2215-0366(20)30187-5.
  3. Davidson B, Hamani C, Rabin JS, Goubran M, Meng Y, Huang Y, Baskaran A, Sharma S, Ozzoude M, Richter MA, Levitt A, Giacobbe P, Hynynen K, Lipsman N. Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound capsulotomy for refractory obsessive compulsive disorder and major depressive disorder: clinical and imaging results from two phase I trials. Mol Psychiatry. 2020 Sep;25(9):1946-1957.
  4. Meng, Y, Abrahao, A, Heyn C, Bethune A, Huang Y, Pople C, Aubert I, Hamani C, Zinman L, Hynynen K, Black B, Lipsman N. Glymphatics visualization after focused ultrasound induced BBB opening in humans. Ann Neurol. 2019 Dec;86(6):975-980.
  5. Abrahao A, Meng Y, Llinas M, Huang Y, Hamani C, Mainprize TG, Aubert I, Heyn C, Black SE, Hynynen K, Lipsman N*, Zinman L*. First-in-human trial of blood-brain barrier opening in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis using MR-guided focused ultrasound. Nat Commun. 2019 Sep 26;10(1):4373.
  6. Lipsman N, Meng Y, Bethune AJ, Huang Y, Lam B, Masellis M, Herrmann N, Heyn C, Aubert I, Boutet A, Smith GS, Hynynen K, Black SE. Blood-Brain Barrier Opening in Alzheimer’s Disease Using MR-guided Focused Ultrasound. Nat Commun. 2018 Jul 25;9(1):2336.

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