We demonstrated the in vivo feasibility of using focused ultrasound (FUS) to transiently modulate (through either stimulation or suppression) the function of regional brain tissue in rabbits. FUS was delivered in a train of pulses at low acoustic energy, far below the cavitation threshold, to the animal's somatomotor and visual areas, as guided by anatomical and functional information from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The temporary alterations in the brain function affected by the sonication were characterized by both electrophysiological recordings and functional brain mapping achieved through the use of functional MRI (fMRI). The modulatory effects were bimodal, whereby the brain activity could either be stimulated or selectively suppressed. Histological analysis of the excised brain tissue after the sonication demonstrated that the FUS did not elicit any tissue damages. Unlike transcranial magnetic stimulation, FUS can be applied to deep structures in the brain with greater spatial precision. Transient modulation of brain function using image-guided and anatomically-targeted FUS would enable the investigation of functional connectivity between brain regions and will eventually lead to a better understanding of localized brain functions. It is anticipated that the use of this technology will have an impact on brain research and may offer novel therapeutic interventions in various neurological conditions and psychiatric disorders.
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