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Ultrasound brain stimulation technique treats brain disorders more deeply and safely

Feb. 26, 2024.
2 min. read 1 Interactions

Researchers develop safer brain therapies with potential neural plasticity

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Amara Angelica

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Amara Angelica was co-lead author of a Frontiers in Neuroscience paper on possible future brain-machine-cloud interfaces

Measuring motor-evoked potentials (MEP) induced by ultrasound stimulation (credit: Ho-Jeong Kim et al.)

Researchers in Korea have developed a new non-invasive brain-stimulation method with “tremendous potential for inducing ‘neural plasticity’ [the ability to change and adapt brain functions].”

Traditional noninvasive electrical and magnetic brain stimulation methods [such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)] are limited in spatial resolution and penetration depth, whlle deep-brain stimulation [such as Neuralink] has risks, such as tissue damage, inflammation and infection,” says Dr. Park Joo Min of the Center for Cognition and Sociality within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), senior author of an open-access paper in Science Advances.

Penetrating deeply and safely in the brain

The team used the “Patterned Low-Intensity Low-Frequency Ultrasound (LILFUS)” method to mimic the brain’s conventional patterns of theta (5 Hz) and gamma (30 Hz) oscillations observed during learning and memory processes.

The researchers delivered this ultrasound stimulation to the cerebral motor cortex in mice and observed significant improvements in motor (muscle movement), skill learning and the ability to retrieve food.

The research suggests new rehabilitation therapies for stroke survivors and individuals with motor impairments. The method could also be used to treat conditions such as depression, sensory impairments and cognitive disorders.

“The study has developed a new and safe neural regulation technology with long-lasting effects, but has also uncovered the molecular mechanism changes involved in brainwave-patterned ultrasound neural regulation,” Min said. “We plan to continue follow-up studies to apply this technology to the treatment of brain disorders related to abnormal brain excitation and inhibition and for the enhancement of cognitive functions.”

Citation: Kim, J., Phan, T. T., Lee, K., Kim, J. S., Lee, Y., Lee, J. M., Do, J., Lee, D., Kim, P., Lee, K. P., Park, J., Lee, C. J., & Park, J. M. (2024). Long-lasting forms of plasticity through patterned ultrasound-induced brainwave entrainment. Science Advances. (open access)

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