Transcranial focused ultrasound modulates the activity of primary somatosensory cortex in humans

Nat Neurosci. 2014 Feb;17(2):322-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.3620. Epub 2014 Jan 12.


Improved methods of noninvasively modulating human brain function are needed. Here we probed the influence of transcranial focused ultrasound (tFUS) targeted to the human primary somatosensory cortex (S1) on sensory-evoked brain activity and sensory discrimination abilities. The lateral and axial spatial resolution of the tFUS beam implemented were 4.9 mm and 18 mm, respectively. Electroencephalographic recordings showed that tFUS significantly attenuated the amplitudes of somatosensory evoked potentials elicited by median nerve stimulation. We also found that tFUS significantly modulated the spectral content of sensory-evoked brain oscillations. The changes produced by tFUS on sensory-evoked brain activity were abolished when the acoustic beam was focused 1 cm anterior or posterior to S1. Behavioral investigations showed that tFUS targeted to S1 enhanced performance on sensory discrimination tasks without affecting task attention or response bias. We conclude that tFUS can be used to focally modulate human cortical function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Alkaloids
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Skull Base / diagnostic imaging
  • Somatosensory Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial / methods*


  • Alkaloids
  • Wilcox compound