Home Medizin Neuartige Techniken könnten die Behandlungslandschaft für Hirnerkrankungen verändern

Neuartige Techniken könnten die Behandlungslandschaft für Hirnerkrankungen verändern

von NFI Redaktion

The adaptability of the human brain to internal and external changes, known as neural plasticity, forms the basis for understanding cognitive functions such as memory, learning, and various neurological disorders. New research conducted by a team led by Dr. PARK Joo Min from the Center for Cognition and Sociality at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) unveils a novel technique that could revolutionize the treatment landscape for brain disorders. The team developed a non-invasive brain stimulation method called Patterned Low-Intensity Low-Frequency Ultrasound (LILFUS), with immense potential to induce long-term changes in brain function.

Traditionally, magnetic and electrical brain stimulation methods are used to modulate brain function. However, these methods have inherent limitations that restrict their spatial resolution and penetration depth, making it difficult to precisely stimulate specific brain regions with optimal efficacy. More invasive methods, such as those requiring surgical procedures, offer better control and therapeutic effects for deep brain stimulation, but are associated with risks such as tissue damage, inflammation, and infections. These limitations have spurred the search for alternative approaches that can overcome these constraints and enable more efficient and precise modulation of brain function.

In the latest study presented by IBS, researchers used ultrasound to enable precise stimulation of specific brain regions. Unlike electromagnetic waves, ultrasound has the advantage of penetrating deep into brain tissue. The researchers discovered that ultrasound stimulation can modulate neural plasticity – the brain’s ability to rewire itself – by activating key molecular signaling pathways. The study specifically examined the effect of ultrasound on mechanosensitive calcium channels in astrocytes, which control the cells‘ ability to absorb calcium and release neurotransmitters.

LILFUS was developed based on specific ultrasound parameters that mimic brain wave patterns of theta (5 Hz) and gamma oscillations (30 Hz) observed during learning and memory processes. The new tool allowed researchers to activate or deactivate specific brain regions at will. It was found that intermittent ultrasound delivery induces long-term potentiation effects, while continuous patterns lead to 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 researchers stimulated the motor cortex of mice with ultrasound, they observed significant improvements in learning motor skills and the ability to find food. Interestingly, the researchers were even able to change the mice’s preference for their front paws, indicating potential applications in rehabilitation therapies for stroke survivors and individuals with motor impairments.

The implications of this research go beyond motor function. It can be used in the treatment of conditions such as depression, where altered brain excitability and plasticity are prominent. With further investigations, LILFUS could be tailored for various brain stimulation protocols, offering hope for various conditions ranging from sensory impairments to cognitive disorders.

This study has not only developed a new and safe technology for neural regulation with long-lasting effects but also uncovered the molecular mechanism changes involved in neural regulation by ultrasound with brain wave patterns. We plan to continue follow-up studies to employ this technology for treating brain disorders related to abnormal brain excitation and inhibition as well as enhancing cognitive functions.“

Dr. Park Joo Min from the Center for Cognition and Sociality, Institute for Basic Science


Institute for Basic Science

Journal Reference:

Kim, HJ., et al. (2024) Persistent forms of plasticity elicited by structured ultrasound-induced brain wave entrainment. Science Advances. doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.adk3198.

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