Numerical evaluation of the skull for human neuromodulation with transcranial focused ultrasound

J Neural Eng. 2017 Dec;14(6):066012. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/aa843e.


Objective: Transcranial focused ultrasound is an emerging field for human non-invasive neuromodulation, but its dosing in humans is difficult to know due to the skull. The objective of the present study was to establish modeling methods based on medical images to assess skull differences between individuals on the wave propagation of ultrasound.

Approach: Computational models of transcranial focused ultrasound were constructed using CT and MR scans to solve for intracranial pressure. We explored the effect of including the skull base in models, different transducer placements on the head, and differences between 250 kHz or 500 kHz acoustic frequency for both female and male models. We further tested these features using linear, nonlinear, and elastic simulations. To better understand inter-subject skull thickness and composition effects we evaluated the intracranial pressure maps between twelve individuals at two different skull sites.

Main results: Nonlinear acoustic simulations resulted in virtually identical intracranial pressure maps with linear acoustic simulations. Elastic simulations showed a difference in max pressures and full width half maximum volumes of 15% at most. Ultrasound at an acoustic frequency of 250 kHz resulted in the creation of more prominent intracranial standing waves compared to 500 kHz. Finally, across twelve model human skulls, a significant linear relationship to characterize intracranial pressure maps was not found.

Significance: Despite its appeal, an inherent problem with the use of a noninvasive transcranial ultrasound method is the difficulty of knowing intracranial effects because of the skull. Here we develop detailed computational models derived from medical images of individuals to simulate the propagation of neuromodulatory ultrasound across the skull and solve for intracranial pressure maps. These methods allow for a much better understanding of the intracranial effects of ultrasound for an individual in order to ensure proper targeting and more tightly control dosing.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Models, Anatomic*
  • Skull / anatomy & histology
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial / methods*