Targeted Neuronal Injury for the Non-Invasive Disconnection of Brain Circuitry

J Vis Exp. 2020 Sep 27;(163). doi: 10.3791/61271.


Surgical intervention can be quite effective for treating certain types of medically intractable neurological diseases. This approach is particularly useful for disorders in which identifiable neuronal circuitry plays a key role, such as epilepsy and movement disorders. Currently available surgical modalities, while effective, generally involve an invasive surgical procedure, which can result in surgical injury to non-target tissues. Consequently, it would be of value to expand the range of surgical approaches to include a technique that is both non-invasive and neurotoxic. Here, a method is presented for producing focal, neuronal lesions in the brain in a non-invasive manner. This approach utilizes low-intensity focused ultrasound together with intravenous microbubbles to transiently and focally open the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). The period of transient BBB opening is then exploited to focally deliver a systemically administered neurotoxin to a targeted brain area. The neurotoxin quinolinic acid (QA) is normally BBB-impermeable, and is well-tolerated when administered intraperitoneally or intravenously. However, when QA gains direct access to brain tissue, it is toxic to the neurons. This method has been used in rats and mice to target specific brain regions. Immediately after MRgFUS, successful opening of the BBB is confirmed using contrast enhanced T1-weighted imaging. After the procedure, T2 imaging shows injury restricted to the targeted area of the brain and the loss of neurons in the targeted area can be confirmed post-mortem utilizing histological techniques. Notably, animals injected with saline rather than QA do demonstrate opening of the BBB, but dot not exhibit injury or neuronal loss. This method, termed Precise Intracerebral Non-invasive Guided surgery (PING) could provide a non-invasive approach for treating neurological disorders associated with disturbances in neural circuitry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / surgery
  • Mice
  • Microbubbles
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Ultrasonic Waves*