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Revolutionary brain stimulation technique shows promise for treating brain disorders

Patterned low-intensity low-frequency ultrasound (LILFUS) promises safe and effective to control brain functions

Date:
February 25, 2024
Source:
Institute for Basic Science
Summary:
The human brain's adaptability to internal and external changes, known as neural plasticity, forms the foundation for understanding cognitive functions like memory and learning, as well as various neurological disorders. Scientists have now unveiled a novel technique that could transform the treatment landscape for brain disorders. The team developed a non-invasive brain stimulation method called Patterned Low-Intensity Low-Frequency Ultrasound (LILFUS), which holds tremendous potential for inducing long-lasting changes in brain function.
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The human brain's adaptability to internal and external changes, known as neural plasticity, forms the foundation for understanding cognitive functions like memory and learning, as well as various neurological disorders. New research conducted by a team led by Dr. PARK Joo Min of the Center for Cognition and Sociality within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) unveils a novel technique that could transform the treatment landscape for brain disorders. The team developed a non-invasive brain stimulation method called Patterned Low-Intensity Low-Frequency Ultrasound (LILFUS), which holds tremendous potential for inducing long-lasting changes in brain function.

Traditionally, magnetic and electrical brain stimulation methods have been used to modulate brain function. However, these methods come with inherent limitations that restrict their spatial resolution and penetration depth, making it challenging to precisely stimulate specific brain regions with optimal efficacy. More invasive methods, such as those that require surgical procedures, exhibit superior control and therapeutic effects for specific deep brain stimulation, but they come with risks such as tissue damage, inflammation, and infection. These limitations have fueled the search for alternative approaches that can overcome these constraints and provide more efficient and precise modulation of brain function.

In the latest study unveiled by the IBS, researchers used ultrasound to enable precise stimulation of specific brain areas. Unlike electromagnetic waves, ultrasound has the advantage of being able to penetrate deep into the brain tissues. The researchers discovered that ultrasound stimulation can modulate neural plasticity -- the brain's ability to rewire itself -- through the activation of key molecular pathways. Specifically, the study pinpointed the ultrasound's effect on mechanosensitive calcium channels in astrocytes, which controls the cells' ability to uptake calcium and release neurotransmitters.

LILFUS was designed based on specific ultrasound parameters that mimic the brainwave patterns of theta (5 Hz) and gamma (30 Hz) oscillations observed during learning and memory processes. The new tool allowed the researchers to either activate or deactivate specific brain regions at will -- intermittent delivery of the ultrasound was found to induce long-term potentiation effects, while continuous patterns resulted in long-term depression effects.

One of the most promising aspects of this new technology is its ability to facilitate the acquisition of new motor skills. When the researchers delivered ultrasound stimulation to the cerebral motor cortex in mice, they observed significant improvements in motor skill learning and the ability to retrieve food. Interestingly, researchers were even able to change the forelimb preference of the mice. This suggests potential applications in rehabilitation therapies for stroke survivors and individuals with motor impairments.

The implications of this research extend far beyond motor function. It may be used to treat conditions such as depression, where altered brain excitability and plasticity are prominent features. With further exploration, LILFUS could be adapted for various brain stimulation protocols, offering hope for various conditions ranging from sensory impairments to cognitive disorders.

Dr. Park stated, "This study has not only 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." He further conveyed, "We plan to continue follow-up studies to apply this technology for the treatment of brain disorders related to abnormal brain excitation and inhibition and for the enhancement of cognitive functions."


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Materials provided by Institute for Basic Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ho-Jeong Kim, Tien Thuy Phan, Keunhyung Lee, Jeong Sook Kim, Sang-Yeong Lee, Jung Moo Lee, Jongrok Do, Doyun Lee, Sung-Phil Kim, Kyu Pil Lee, Jinhyoung Park, C. Justin Lee, Joo Min Park. Long-lasting forms of plasticity through patterned ultrasound-induced brainwave entrainment. Science Advances, 2024; 10 (8) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adk3198

Cite This Page:

Institute for Basic Science. "Revolutionary brain stimulation technique shows promise for treating brain disorders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2024. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240225212509.htm>.
Institute for Basic Science. (2024, February 25). Revolutionary brain stimulation technique shows promise for treating brain disorders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240225212509.htm
Institute for Basic Science. "Revolutionary brain stimulation technique shows promise for treating brain disorders." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240225212509.htm (accessed April 19, 2024).

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