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Transcranial focused ultrasound modulates the activity of primary somatosensory cortex in humans

Nature Neuroscience volume 17, pages 322329 (2014) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Improved methods of noninvasively modulating human brain function are needed. Here we probed the influence of transcranial focused ultrasound (tFUS) targeted to the human primary somatosensory cortex (S1) on sensory-evoked brain activity and sensory discrimination abilities. The lateral and axial spatial resolution of the tFUS beam implemented were 4.9 mm and 18 mm, respectively. Electroencephalographic recordings showed that tFUS significantly attenuated the amplitudes of somatosensory evoked potentials elicited by median nerve stimulation. We also found that tFUS significantly modulated the spectral content of sensory-evoked brain oscillations. The changes produced by tFUS on sensory-evoked brain activity were abolished when the acoustic beam was focused 1 cm anterior or posterior to S1. Behavioral investigations showed that tFUS targeted to S1 enhanced performance on sensory discrimination tasks without affecting task attention or response bias. We conclude that tFUS can be used to focally modulate human cortical function.

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Acknowledgements

Funding and equipment for this study was provided by a Technological Innovation Award from the McKnight Endowment for Neuroscience, Neurotrek, Inc. and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

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Affiliations

  1. Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, Virginia, USA.

    • Wynn Legon
    • , Tomokazu F Sato
    • , Alexander Opitz
    • , Aaron Barbour
    • , Amanda Williams
    •  & William J Tyler
  2. Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Georg-August-University, Göttingen, Germany.

    • Alexander Opitz
  3. School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

    • Jerel Mueller
    •  & William J Tyler
  4. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, Virginia, USA.

    • William J Tyler

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Contributions

W.L., T.F.S., A.O., J.M., A.B., A.W. and W.J.T. performed the experiments; W.L., T.F.S., A.O. and W.J.T. wrote the manuscript; W.L., T.F.S., A.O. and W.J.T. conducted the data analyses; W.J.T. supervised the project.

Competing interests

W.J.T. is the cofounder of a medical device company. W.J.T., T.F.S. and A.O. are inventors on patent applications describing methods and devices for noninvasive brain stimulation.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to William J Tyler.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3620

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