Non-Invasive, Focal Disconnection of Brain Circuitry Using Magnetic Resonance-Guided Low-Intensity Focused Ultrasound to Deliver a Neurotoxin

Ultrasound Med Biol. 2016 Sep;42(9):2261-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2016.04.019. Epub 2016 May 31.


Disturbances in the function of neuronal circuitry contribute to most neurologic disorders. As knowledge of the brain's connectome continues to improve, a more refined understanding of the role of specific circuits in pathologic states will also evolve. Tools capable of manipulating identified circuits in a targeted and restricted manner will be essential not only to expand our understanding of the functional roles of such circuits, but also to therapeutically disconnect critical pathways contributing to neurologic disease. This study took advantage of the ability of low-intensity focused ultrasound (FUS) to transiently disrupt the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to deliver a neurotoxin with poor BBB permeability (quinolinic acid [QA]) in a guided manner to a target region in the brain parenchyma. Ten male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into two groups receiving the following treatments: (i) magnetic resonance-guided FUS + microbubbles + saline (n = 5), or (ii) magnetic resonance-guided FUS + microbubbles + QA (n = 5). Systemic administration of QA was well tolerated. However, when QA and microbubbles were systemically administered in conjunction with magnetic resonance-guided FUS, the BBB was disrupted and primary neurons were destroyed in the targeted subregion of the hippocampus in all QA-treated animals. Administration of vehicle (saline) together with microbubbles and FUS also disrupted the BBB but did not produce neuronal injury. These findings indicate the feasibility of non-invasively destroying a targeted region of the brain parenchyma using low-intensity FUS together with systemic administration of microbubbles and a neurotoxin. This approach could be of therapeutic value in various disorders in which disturbances of neural circuitry contribute to neurologic disease.

Keywords: Blood–brain barrier; Epilepsy; Hippocampus; Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound; Quinolinic acid; Transcranial drug delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism*
  • Brain
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Interventional*
  • Male
  • Microbubbles
  • Models, Animal
  • Neurotoxins / administration & dosage*
  • Quinolinic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Ultrasonic Waves*


  • Neurotoxins
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Quinolinic Acid