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A multidisciplinary team at Washington University in St. Louis has developed a new brain stimulation technique using focused ultrasound that is able to turn specific types of neurons in the brain on and off and precisely control motor activity. This is made possible without surgical device implantation and may help in neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. The team, led by Hong Chen, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering and of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine made experiences in the brain of mammal by combining ultrasound-induced heating effect and genetics, which they have named sonothermogenetics. “Our work provided evidence that sonothermogenetics evokes behavioral responses in freely moving mice while targeting a deep brain site,” Chen said.
“Sonothermogenetics has the potential to transform our approaches for neuroscience research and uncover new methods to understand and treat human brain disorders,” he added. “Because it is noninvasive, this technique has the potential to be scaled up to large animals and potentially humans in the future,” Yaoheng Yang, first author of the paper and a graduate student in biomedical engineering explained. The work also builds on the concept of optogenetics, the combination of the targeted expression of light-sensitive ion channels and the precise delivery of light to stimulate neurons deep in the brain. The use of sonothermogenetics it’s not causing any damage to the brain.