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Hyper Direct Brain-Muscle Pathway Inhibits Initiated Movements in Humans

Scientists identify a causal role for the subthalamic nucleus in the blocking of muscle movements already initiated. In studies conducted on patients with Parkinson’s disease and healthy controls, researchers showed that when cortico-spinal excitability is inhibited midway through an action, the inhibition extends beyond just the muscle involved in the task. This overriding pathway helps humans react to potentially dangerous or surprising situations, and could offer therapeutic benefits to patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Ultrasound Activates Mammalian Cells Expressing Human Channel

Scientists at the Salk Institute have identified a human channel protein (hsTRPA1) that when engineered in mammalian cells confers cell-specific sensitivity to safe and noninvasive ultrasound stimulation. The new finding could be used to develop noninvasive deep brain stimulation, pacemakers, and insulin pumps. The authors showed that expression of hsTRPA1 in mouse layer five motor cortical neurons in one brain hemisphere leads to neuronal activation and sensations in the contralateral limb in response to ultrasound delivered through the intact skull.

Biomarker Identified for Early Antidepressant Effects of Deep Brain Stimulation

Acute behavioral changes and long-term antidepressant response can be reliably elicited by surgically targeting and stimulating the subcallosal cingulate (SCC) gyrus area 25, a brain area implicated in depression. While the clinical effectiveness of DBS over the course of six months of treatment has been repeatedly demonstrated, there are differences in the timeline of recovery across different patients. A new study identifies an electrophysiological biomarker that can help optimize this experimental procedure in treating treatment-resistant depression and gain insights into the mechanisms underlying the efficacy of deep brain stimulation.

Depression Biomarker Enables Precision Therapy in Landmark Study

A new way of treating major depression has been developed by scientists at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). The approach builds on earlier work that identified signature electrical activities in the brain that correlate to different moods, and brain regions that when stimulated relieve depression. In the new two-step method, the researchers identify a symptom-specific neural biomarker and a treatment location where focal electrical stimulation improves the symptoms. They then implant a device in the identified location, capable of sensing and stimulating electrical impulses that triggers therapeutic deep brain stimulation when the severity of the symptom increases.