AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 1, 2018


Scientists Use Sound Waves to Control Brain Cells

A new way to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic waves has been developed by scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The technique, published in the journal Nature Communications, utilizes the same type of waves used in medical sonograms and may have advantages over the light-based approach — known as optogenetics — particularly when it comes to adapting the technology to human therapeutics. “Light-based techniques are great for some uses and I think we’re going to continue to see developments on that front,” said the study’s lead researcher. “But this is a new, additional tool to manipulate neurons and other cells in the body.” During the study, researchers decided to see if they could develop an approach that instead relied on ultrasound waves for the activation. In contrast to light, low-frequency ultrasound can travel through the body without any scattering. Researchers explained that this could be a big advantage when attempting to stimulate a region deep in the brain without affecting other regions. Both optogenetic and sonogenetic approaches offer potential for basic research on the effect of cell activation. To read more about this study, click here.

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