media release

Engineering and neuroscience combine to tackle youth mental health and addiction

February 25, 2020

Ian Bryce, University Communications and Marketing, 236-880-2187,

Simon Fraser University professor Faranak Farzan will speak about combining engineering and neuroscience approaches to tackle youth depression and addiction as part of the SFU President’s Faculty Lecture Series on Tuesday, February 25 at SFU’s Surrey campus.



Creating new tools to reliably predict a patient’s response to treatment for depression could significantly reduce the burden of illness. Farzan led a Canada wide collaborative research study on using machine learning as a diagnostic tool to treat depression. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January, found that technology—specifically electroencephalograms, or EEGs—could be used as a treatment planning tool to predict changes in depression severity in those prescribed with escitalopram, an anti-depressant.

Farzan and her team are addressing the social and economic costs from prolonged periods of time spent in untreated depression,  which is due to the current lengthy trial-and-error approach in identifying effective treatments for each patient. Farzan and her team are also developing technologies that can lead to more targeted and efficacious treatments for whom the current treatments do not work.

“Unfortunately, current treatments are not as effective or cause side effects in a large minority, particularly in youth,” says Farzan, who holds the Chair in Technology Innovations for Youth Addiction Recovery and Mental Health at SFU’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering. “Further, across all age groups, treatment prescription is too often a trial-and-error process, leading to years of untreated conditions, such as depression, before an effective therapy is identified.”



  • Tuesday, February 25, 2020
  • 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.



  • Room 1002, SFU Sustainable Energy Building, SFU’s Surrey campus
  • 10285 University Drive, Surrey



One in five North American youths is affected by a mental illness. Surpassed only by injuries, mental illness in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.



As Canada’s engaged university, SFU works with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change. We deliver a world-class education with lifelong value that shapes change-makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 155,000 alumni in 143 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.