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.
Scientists have developed a new technology to modulate neural activity using focused, low intensity ultrasound pulses. Transcranial focused ultrasound (tFUS) can target specific cells and neural circuits to activate or inhibit them. The novel technology can be applied to develop diagnostic techniques and innovative treatment options for a variety of neurological and psychiatric diseases such as chronic pain, depression, insomnia, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease.